We have zero space for a BBQ, which bums me out on the regular, because having people round for a BBQ is one of my FAVE things ever to do. Granted, I'm not that great at the actual BBQ part, but there's something about having people around, cooking outside, and keeping things simple. I grew up in a house which was somewhat of a railway station - there were always a few extras here and there most of the time, so grew up with communal meals happening almost more frequently than just us sitting around the dinner table. Mum and Dad have a swimming pool at their house, so in the summertime our house becomes a hub for our friends and family, and most evenings end with a bbq meal outside. Having a BBQ is one of the things I look forward to when I finally have a house one day of my own, along with grass, and a washing line.
My favourite thing about having loads of people around all the time when I was younger, was the desserts. Always an opportunity to make something to be shared. I usually just rotated through the few things I knew how to make, sometimes trying something a little different. Sometimes Mum would make a giant pavlova, topped with cream and berries.
These meringue stacks are a little nod to summer desserts and the BBQ I wish I had. The meringues themselves are super easy to make, and can be made ahead (they are actually best made ahead so that they have time to fully dry out). That way when it comes to serving, all you have to do is set out some berries, quickly whip some cream, and pop it all on the table for people to build their own desserts. It is quick and easy and relatively fuss free, while still being crazy delicious. It's a great way to use up that jar of egg whites in your fridge (maybe that's just me that always has that - I'm sure not everyone tests a custard recipe requiring 6 yolks, four times in a row), and you can tailor them to however you like, or whatever is on hand - they would be amazing with roasted or fresh stone fruit, or some quickly poached rhubarb.
A few wee notes:
Meringues can be kind of finicky - you want to dry them out rather than baking them, so low and slow is the way to go. I like to bake them the night before I need them, and leave them in the oven with the door cracked a little to let them cool overnight. Once they are done, store them in an airtight container because they will get sticky with moisture.
The meringue recipe I have used here is super scaleable - It's just 1 part egg whites to 1.5 parts sugar by weight, so to adjust it accordingly if you have a certain amount of egg whites, simply multiply the amount of egg by 1.5 to give you the sugar quantity!
This recipe (it's a swiss meringue) is enough to fill 2 baking trays with meringue - I used an Ateco #828 tip to pipe them, but you could use whatever you have on hand - or even just spoon little mounds onto the baking tray. Because you are just drying them out, rather than baking to a certain stage, you can have a range of different sized meringues on the same tray - I made mainly nests, then piped some kisses too to go alongside.
Mixed Berry Meringue Stacks with Mascarpone Whipped Cream
- Makes about 12 stacks, depending on your piping size -
200g egg whites
300g granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
Mascarpone whipped cream
1 1/2 cups (360ml) whipping cream
4 oz (110g) Mascarpone
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
Berries or fresh fruit of your choice
Powdered sugar to dust
- PROCESS -
Preheat the oven to 225˚f / 110˚c. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Measure the egg whites and granulated sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer or other heatproof bowl. Place over a pot of simmering water, ensuring that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Heat the mixture, whisking often and watching the edges carefully, until it no longer feels gritty when rubbed between your fingers, and it registers at least 70˚c / 160˚f on a thermometer.
Carefully transfer to a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add the vanilla. Whip on high speed until stiff peaks form, approximately 4-5 minutes. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with the piping tip of your choice.
Pipe 'nests', or round flat circles onto the baking paper, leaving a small amount of space between each. You can pipe whatever shape you would like here - blobs, nests, kisses etc. My circles were approx 2 1/2 inches wide.
Place the baking sheets into the oven. Bake for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, or until they feel firm and no longer sticky, and peel cleanly off the paper when you lift them up. Turn off the oven, and leave them in there for at least an additional hour to dry out and crisp up.
Store in an airtight container until ready to use.
Place cream in a medium sized bowl. Whisk until soft peaks form. Add Mascarpone and vanilla, and whip just until stiff peaks start to form.
Layer a meringue with berries and cream, followed by a second meringue, more berries, and more cream. Finish with a dust of powdered sugar.
Keep components separate until ready to serve.
Thank you to Elsie Green for the beautiful jars!