I learned how to make a meringue nest early in my pastry chef career. It is an excellent idea in the pastry kitchen to have a repertoire of recipes that use an abundance of egg whites. The reason for that is because there are so many egg yolks utilized in the kitchen for crème brûlée, custards, sauces, Hollandaise and Béarnaise sauce, to name a few. We often had buckets of egg whites within a day or two of kitchen activities. Since there are only so many egg white omelettes you can make for the spa menu, using egg whites in cookies or desserts was popular – and fun! I had quite a repertoire of recipes available to use these extra egg whites and I will share some ideas with you to use in your own kitchen.
In this article, I will give you some ideas how you can use extra egg whites as well giving you as a recipe for meringue nests. On this blog, you will find recipes for Italian Almond Macaroons, Rice Flour Tuile Cookies, Earl Grey Chiffon Mini Cakes, Colourful Meringue Cookies, Chocolate Financier Cookies and many more. Making meringues are another way to use egg whites to create all kinds of excellent dessert options.
As far as meringue nests, there are two different ways of making them – crispy and soft meringues. They have different purposes on the dessert menu.
A soft meringue nest has a few additional ingredients to encourage a marshmallow-like soft interior with a crisp outside crust. All it takes is one tablespoon of Apple cider vinegar and 2 tablespoons of cornstarch (also known as corn flour) are added to the whipped egg white mixture in the recipe below to achieve this meringue texture. This type of meringue is typically used for Pavlova, which is a lovely dessert in itself. The soft meringue nest is usually made by plopping a large spoonful of meringue on a parchment-lined baking sheet and creating an indentation in the middle with the back of a spoon – thus creating the nest.
The soft meringues are baked in a low oven (around 300oF) for about 40 minutes until the meringue sets and it starts to take on a bit of colour. The timing, of course, depends on the size that you make the soft meringue nests. I like making individual nests for Pavlova. This type of meringue is meant to be a little more rustic in appearance and the craggy, cracked tops are interesting to look at. The plating for the pavlova meringue is finished by spreading a rather thick layer of whipped cream on top of the meringue, then a tumble of fresh berries over the top of the cream, and a final dusting of icing sugar over the entire thing. Voila – dessert is served!
The crispy meringue nests ingredients include only egg whites, a pinch of salt, sugar and flavouring – that is all. They are lovely on a dessert buffet or as a component on a combination dessert plate. I like to make this type of meringue nest quite tiny and dainty – less than two inches in diameter, but you can make larger meringue nests just as easily. The meringue nests require patience while you wait for them to bake in a very slow oven (at 170°F) for about two hours, depending on the size that you make them. Fill them with flavoured whipped cream, Lemon Curd or Blackberry Lime Curd and plate them on to a shiny silver tray for a beautiful presentation.
YIELD: 40 Nests
- 4 large Egg whites
- Pinch of salt
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- An Acid: 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice or 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract (optional – see CHEF TALK below)
- Using a mixer with a whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt, the lemon juice or cream of tartar until foamy.
- Gradually add the granulated sugar and continue to whisk until the meringue is stiff. If you are using the vanilla bean extract or vanilla bean paste, add it now. CHEF TALK: The reason I put optional in the recipe for vanilla is that I like a really, really white meringue, and vanilla will alter the snowy white appearance just a bit to an ecru colour. However, I do sometimes like using a little vanilla bean paste because the minuscule speckles of the vanilla bean seeds are lovely showing through the snowy white meringue. It all depends on how you want the final presentation to look.
- Prepare a piping bag with a round tip (I like to use a small round tip about 1/2 inch in diameter opening). CHEF TIPS: 1) Turn a cuff down on the piping bag so that it is easier (and neater) to fill with the meringue mixture.2) Place the cuffed piping bag (tip down) into a large measuring cup so that you can fill the piping bag hands-free).
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. CHEF TIP: Take a small amount of the meringue mixture on your finger and put a little smudge on each corner of the baking sheet underneath the parchment. This holds the parchment paper in place while you are piping the nests.
- To start the nests, carefully pipe a small spiral about two inches or so in diameter – this is the base of the nest.
- Pipe a round of meringue in a ring on right on top of the outer edge. (You are building the second row of the nest as you continue to pipe around the rim in a continuous spiral). Pipe another row (you will need to pipe about three times up on top of the bottom ring to create the nest. If you want it a bit higher, then pipe another ring on top of the last one. I find that I only need three to make a dainty meringue nest.
- Bake at 170°F for 1.5 – 2 hours, depending on the size of the meringue nests.
- Check the oven every once in a while to see how the meringue nests are coming along (I keep the oven light on so that I do not have to open the oven door). When the meringue nests are finished baking, they will be firm, and yet still snowy white. They will be dry enough to lift off of the parchment paper. If they are not releasing from the parchment paper on their own, they need a bit more time in the low oven. I will often leave them in the oven overnight once I turn off the oven to dry out completely.
- Once the meringue nests have finished baking and have cooled completely, store them uncovered in a dry place. If the meringues are stored in ideal conditions, the meringues will keep indefinitely. For longer storage, keep them in a covered container with layers of parchment paper in between.
- Serve them as suggested above or think of your own idea. If you have leftover meringue nests, crunch them up to sprinkle on top of ice cream, fold into pudding for texture or use them in the classic dessert called Eaton Mess. Or just enjoy the crunchy meringues on their own.
Please CLICK the link above to access my UrbnSpice LEARNING TIPS, which are listed alphabetically on the Learning Tips blog post under the following subheadings:
- Oven Temperature Accuracy
- Vanilla Extract
More ways to use egg whites from UrbnSpice:
Have fun with these! Drop me a line or two if you have any other ideas or if you have used some of the suggestions that I have given you. Whatever way you choose to use your extra egg whites, have fun!
As always, if you give this recipe for How to Make a Meringue Nest a try, please come back and leave me a comment below with your feedback.
You can find me on social media – just be sure to tag @urbnspice and #urbnspice so I am sure to see it. Enjoy!
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