Each month brings two recipes to make from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking With Julia. Group members choose recipes, which are then narrowed down and made official by the moderators. As a participant, I should make at least one of each month’s entries. May’s first recipe was for phyllo dough wrapped, pesto-d scallops. I was under the impression that we were to make phyllo, so I decided to abstain. Come LeaveYourLink day, everyone had used ready-made phyllo. That would have been so easy!
May’s 2nd recipe called for a coconut flake meringue wafer, layered with rum-infused whipped cream, and slices of tropical fruits. I was SO not doing that! But wait, 2 recipes in a month! I need to make 1! With only slight pangs of guilt, I was still going to skip this recipe until realizing that tomorrow’s Wednesdays With Kids has us separating eggs and beating egg whites. I decided today, on LeaveYourLink Day, some fresh meringue-making in my arsenal would help with my class. I began to rummage for ingredients.
Eggs are easy right now, the chickens are all laying, and Scotti is even broody. Sugar & salt-check. Sesame seeds-suprisingly-check. Sweetened flaked coconut? Nope. We are not overly fond of coconut here. Coconut milk in curries or whipped for allergen-free desserts, and some uses for coconut oil are as far as we go. On to Google for coconut flake substitutions. Between some helpful Paleo sites and an Alice Medrich meringue recipe from Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts, I settled on replacing the coconut with finely chopped nuts. The only nuts I could find in my freezer were cashews. A few food processor pulses later and voilà! I give you my mise en place:
The wafers are meant to be thin, so the author instructs to cut a template from a plastic lid. My template is between 3 1/2- and 4-inches in diameter.
I chose to use my 7-speed hand-held mixer since I was only working with 3 egg whites, though using the Kitchen Aid would have been easier to photograph. As an aside, when the chickens are laying, I only use their eggs in my cooking and baking. We have a variety of breeds, providing different color, and different size eggs. Most of the chickens give us extra-large eggs, requiring I juggle sizes and numbers of eggs to get as close as I can to the egg requirement of any recipe.
The fresh, room temperature whites whipped up nicely.
I added the sugar after soft peaks begin to form, gradually poured in while the mixer runs. The final peaks were “shiny and firm”, the goal stated in the recipe.
At this point, a loyal recipe follower would fold in half of the coconut flakes, saving the rest to be sprinkled on each wafer before baking. I folded in my finely chopped cashew.
The meringue had a beautiful consistency. I’ve never been overly fond of eating meringue cookies-no substance and far too sweet-but folding this “batter” was a thrill.
To form the wafers, I placed the plastic template onto a buttered/floured baking sheet. Greasing the pan is necessary to remove the wafers after baking.
I baked until the wafers began to color. I have no experience with meringue outside of using it to top a pie. Determining doneness was a bit tricky. One wafer was thicker in places so it came off the baking sheet in pieces.
After whipping some heavy cream, finishing the dessert went as follows:
I used the fruit I had: sliced fresh strawberries and some frozen blue & blackberries. I only used vanilla in the whipped cream, not rum, and sweetened it only slightly. Though skeptical, this dessert was delicious. I think almonds would have provided a deeper flavor, and I am sure for those who love coconut, this dessert, properly made, would be amazing.
Tropical Napoleons • Baking With Julia • Contributing Baker: Charlotte Akoto • pages 393-394