Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Red Berry Meringue Heart to Share

Since I was on a roll with my pastry bags and piping, and since trying new things went so well, I decided to make a recipe from the chapter on meringues, and this one seemed the simplest. It's meant to be made on Valentine's day (it is a heart after all), but berries are just starting to be in season, and I thought it would be a sweet start to the week (especially after I made Dan take our picture at this pretty park over the weekend, since his arm is so much longer than mine, and then made him do it about 12 more times since I kept deleting every one he took. Hey, it takes a few trys for my amateur camera to capture my true, natural beauty. Also, it took me 3 tries to spell "amateur" correctly. English Major Fail.)

To make the meringue, I only needed 3 ingredients:

 lemon juice, egg whites, and caster sugar

Using the whisk attachment (which I had to search high and low for. AGAIN. What is it with that thing?), I combined the egg whites, a teaspoon of lemon juice, and about a third of the sugar, whisking until it formed firm peaks. This meant the meringue should just hold its shape and stick to the sides of the bowl and whisk. Once I got to that point, I added another third of sugar, and whisked for about 2 minutes. Then, I added the last of the sugar, and whisked just until it was incorporated.

The meringue was shiny, smooth, and soo pretty. Light and fluffy looking, but sort of reminded me of a melted marshmallow in taste and consistency.

Now the hard part: not eating all the meringue before I could get it in the piping bag. Oh, and piping the meringue into a heart shape. I had lightly oiled a sheet pan, and laid down a sheet of parchment paper so it would stick. The idea was to gradually pipe layers of the heart, building it up so as to create a sort of vessel for whipped cream and berries.

Ok, I thought, it's just a heart. I can totally do this. What girl doesn't know how to draw a heart anyway?

Apparently this girl.

Layer 1: Hmm, not exactly what I was going for, but I'll just do a better job with layer 2. And oh yeah, I'm supposed to taper the end away from the bottom.

Layer 2: Oh Christ. This is not going well. What the hell is that squiggly line on the side? And how did the "taper" get so long?

Layer 3: Why is it all wavy like that? Why isn't it nice and smooth? What's that big hole in the middle. CAN THIS GET ANY WORSE??

Yes. Yes, it can.

Exhibit B: My second attempt. Because the recipe makes way more meringue than you actually need.

At least I remembered that tapered line at the point. Yes, my swirls are different sizes, but Cosmo says that's normal!

What's that condition when half of your face is paralyzed making it all droopy and asymmetrical?

I'll just use this extra meringue to smooth everything out. Ok, now one more layer to smooth all of that out. And anoth...oh crap.

I don't know what possessed me to think I had the kind of artistic talent it takes to make a heart, because let me tell you, that shit is hard. Before I started, I was all, "Oh, it's just a heart. How simple and easy. Piping straight lines last week was a breeze!" Apparently curved lines are a whole other story.

Sadly I had forgotten that I have the hand-eye coordination of a 5-year-old. Seriously, you should see my handwriting; it's like a toddler's. A MALE toddler's.

Let's just do a comparison, shall we?


 she's prettier, funnier, and perkier than you


I had to use the extra meringue to make some little puffs to prove I wasn't completely incompetent. Although the first one I did looked like a mangled marshmallow peep.

In hindsight (and I actually thought of this a few days before, but completely forgot it the day I was making this), it would have been a good idea to draw the outline I wanted to use onto the back of the parchment paper, so I could then trace it with the piping bag. See, I am brilliant. Just not when it actually matters.

I put the pan into a low oven, and baked it for 4o minutes. I was constantly opening the oven to check the temperature because my oven likes to get sassy, and thinks it knows what's best. So even though I set it for 225, it decided 250 was really a better temperature. And then 200. No wait, 250. I JUST WANT 225, DAMMIT!

In between running over to check the oven temperature and kicking it repeatedly, I made the filling.

heavy cream, raspberries, and confectioners sugar
I crushed 4 or 5 raspberries using a fork, and put them into my mixing bowl with the cream and sugar.

I whisked this into a flurry until it was nice and firm and a pretty pale pink color.

I put this in the fridge for later. After 40 minutes, I checked the meringue, which still looked shiny, but now a little dry and covered in very tiny little cracks. The recipe cautions not to bake too long or the meringue will be too dry, so I left it for another 6 minutes, and then removed the tray.

 Huh, still looks pretty... "special"

I let the meringue cool on the tray, and then stored it in tupperware until after dinner. It was fragile and a little sticky to the touch.

To assemble, I spooned some of the cream into the center of each heart, and covered it with raspberries and sliced strawberries so no cream was showing. I heated some currant jelly with a little water and used this to brush over the berries as a glaze.

And final product?

See how I used the berries to cover/camouflage the heart? And then decorated/caused a distraction on the plate with more berries and meringue puffs? Just let your eye wander. No, no, don't focus on any one thing for too long. Just skim.

The raspberry cream was delicious. It was sweet, light, and fresh, although the seeds were a little annoying. Paired with the berries, it was really yummy. The meringue was sweet, but it was chewy and very sticky, which made it hard to cut and chew. Dan maaaybe likened it to eating styrofoam. This was actually the perfect description of the texture, so I was impressed enough with his comparative skills not to be offended. Or to realize that I had made my boyfriend something that was supposed to be lovely and romantic, and had ended up feeding him a packing material.

Clearly, I have a lot to learn. Thank goodness I'm going to pastry school.

Before I leave you, I have a confession to make. I know I've mentioned elsewhere that I really enjoy reading other people's blogs, but I wasn't exactly specific about what kind I like to read. *Somehow* ( I could actually explain to you how I got there but it would take way too long and I would lose you halfway through), I have managed to stumble upon and become obsessed with reading blogs written by mothers, or "mommy bloggers" if you can manage to say that without cringing. I prefer to think of them as women bloggers, who, because they mostly fall into the 27-33 age bracket, coincidentally also have small children.

Now, let me assure you, this in no way reflects my current personal wishes. Dear lord, the last thing I would want right now is a BABY. I can barely manage my pharmaceutically altered 13 pound DOG. And I am only admitting this to you because I don't have to see your face when I tell you, because it is a dirty little secret, about which I have only talked to Dan. His concerned response: "Umm, maybe you should try looking for some other kinds of blogs..." as he looked panicked toward the door. And I have. There are two other kinds of blogs I do read faithfully: one is a cooking blog I've linked to over on the right side of this page, and the other is just a funny "day in the life" sort of blog of an author with no children. (If you want the small version of the truth, the latter was my gateway drug blog that led to the discovery of my current favorites even though she is not and has no desire to be a mother herself.)

I've tried searching for new material and have looked through dozens of other cooking blogs, or have searched for blogs written by twenty-somethings, but I've yet to find anything as good as blogs written by mothers about their lives and kids. My major qualification for a good blog is that it's funny. If I'm trying desperately to stifle laughter while I sit at my desk at work, practically suffocating because if I take a breath I'm going to burst into inappropriately loud, uncontrollable laughter, that's the sign of a really good blog.

I think being pregnant or a mother and having small children gives these women something concrete to write about every single day, and the blogs I read are hilarious. Cooking blogs are interesting, but all they make me want to do is bake or eat, both of which I already do enough. I'm more interested in people's day to day lives, and a lot of food bloggers don't really talk about that (hence my attempts to give you funny little snippets of things that happen to me). Blogs written by twenty-five-year-olds just don't have the same kind of focus as blogs written by mothers. I don't really want to hear about your boring day at work or some stupid party you went to where you hung out with a bunch of people I don't know.

I've even gone back into the archives of some of my favorites, to before they had kids, and the posts just aren't as good. I maintain that one of the women I read is actually funnier when she's pregnant. I will say though, that the bloggers I like to read don't just talk about their kids; they also write about their house remodel, in-laws, vacations, etc., and when they do write about their kids or spouses, it's not all rainbows and butterflies. Often they use foul language, call them mean names, complain about their existence, and bitterly wish for different lives, which makes it all the more funny and realistic.

One of the problems I encounter from indulging in this little habit is when I read these blogs at work. I work in a sort of customer service related position, so when all my calls have been made, my inbox is empty, and the phones are quiet, we have a lot of down time, and as I see it, there's no harm in quietly reading on my computer while waiting for the phone to ring.

Now, while I wouldn't exactly want my boss to see me doing this, if my co-worker happens to walk by and see that I'm reading something other than our typical work material, I don't worry about  it. We all do other things while at work on the computer and everyone respects each other's privacy and choices. The problem arises when I'm scrolling through a new blog post that includes pictures of the blogger's young kids (a fairly common occurrence). My biggest fear is that someone will see me looking at them and either think I am some kind of stalker weirdo that lusts after other people's children (Yeah, right. If you know me, you know I am not a huge fan of other people's kids. I was never a babysitter and don't gush over babies. Puppies? Yes. They are furry little nuggets of love. Babies? No. They are bald little bundles of stickiness and drool. And if you have a toddler whose favorite activity is to ask lots of questions or tell me stupid things about which I have to fake enthusiasm, I'm not your girl. My stance is that I'll like my own kids. If they're lucky.) But the other option is that someone (more excited about other people's children) will croon, "Aww, those kids are soo cute! How do you know them!? Are they your cousins?"

Um, define "know."

If by that, you mean know every intimate detail about their gestation, birth, and toddler-hood, but have actually no idea who they really are and have never and will never meet them in person...then yes, I know them and their parents quite well.

So that's my confession. I have become perhaps unhealthily obsessed with the lives of people I do not know, and enjoy reading about them daily. Oh, and I eat peanut butter right out of the jar. I use a spoon! Geez people, RELAX.

Next Indulgence: Coffee and Walnut Fudge


  1. I like the fact that your interests are based in the realities of life..

  2. This post made me laugh out loud and show Chance. The picture of the heart from the book and then right below your heart was hysterical.

    BUT you definitely fixed it with the berries. It looked really good after that. I don't like meringe at all so this recipe isn't for me...but I LOVED the post.

    What is your favorite Mommy blog?

  3. My favorite one is probably http://www.sundrymourning.com/ Some of her older entries are so hilarious, I nearly suffocated trying not to laugh out loud at work.


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