Meringue is irresistible to me as a sculptural medium as well as a dessert component. Although I’ve gotten some big laughs (howls, actually) for attempting to make trompe l’oeil meringue asparagus, I always get raves for meringue shells. Named for the fun of it, Carmen Meringay is for show-offs: Meringue is piped straight up the sheer walls of a vertical form, baked until dry and crisp, then removed from the form. You can fill it with chocolate mousse, whipped cream, and chocolate curls, or with layers of softened chocolate ice cream drizzled with chocolate sauce and interspersed with crushed praline. Or you can fill the shell with ripe berries or sliced stone fruit, toasted nuts, and whipped cream, custard, or vanilla ice cream. Cubes of liquor-drenched sponge cake can be layered in, if you like.—Alice Medrich
A large baking sheet
A piece of flexible corrugated cardboard 25 to 30 inches long and 5 to 6 inches wide
A large pastry bag fitted with a medium small star tip (Ateco #843 or #9824)
For the meringue
2/3 cup sugar (divided – set aside 1/3 of the sugar)
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon salt
Make the form
1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 200°F (95°C). Cut a piece of parchment paper to cover the baking sheet, then cut the paper crosswise in half. Set one piece aside.
2. Bend the corrugated cardboard into a cylinder 7 to 8 inches in diameter and secure the overlapping edges with tape. Stand the cardboard cylinder in the center of the parchment on the baking sheet. Push the cylinder into an oval shape (or keep it round), taping the bottom edges securely to the parchment in several places to preserve the shape. Cut a piece of parchment big enough to wrap around and cover the cardboard cylinder completely. Secure the overlapping end of the parchment with tape but do not tape the parchment to the cardboard or you will not be able to slip it off later.
Make the meringue
1. In a clean, dry bowl, beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt on high speed (medium speed if using a heavy-duty stand mixer) until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted. Gradually beat in 2/3′s of the sugar (a little under 1/2 cup), taking 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. The meringue should stand in very stiff glossy peaks when the beaters are lifted. Fold in the reserved sugar. (Remove the bowl if using a stand mixer.)
2. Scrape the meringue into the pastry bag. Starting at the bottom of the form, pipe a line of meringue up the outside of the form. Near the top, jerk the tip of the pastry bag upward to form a point. Starting at the bottom again, pipe a second line of meringue parallel to and touching the first. Repeat until the form is covered with meringue. (If there are gaps in coverage or places where the piping barely touches, pipe some extra lines of meringue as necessary. Don’t worry, this will look beautiful and reinforces the structure!)
3. Slide the parchment with the form placed on it to one end of the baking sheet. Place the reserved parchment next to it. Pipe or spread the remaining meringue on the parchment to make a thin oval layer slight smaller than the form.
4. Bake for 2 hours. Turn off the oven and leave the meringue inside for at least another hour or overnight.
5. Carefully detach the baked (and very fragile) meringue shell from the form as follows: Lift the meringue and attached parchment upward, sliding them off of the cardboard. Set the meringue on a flat tray. Carefully, without bumping the meringue, reach in and grasp the end of the parchment. Gently pull the parchment off the meringue, pulling toward the center of the shell. Slide a metal spatula under the meringue layer to separate it from the parchment underneath. If necessary, trim the layer with a serrated knife so the meringue shell (lifted and set down carefully with two hands) fits completely over it. Store the shell and the bottom layer in an airtight container for up to several weeks, until needed.
6. Fill as suggested in introduction.
Recipe © 2003 Alice Medrich. All rights reserved.