Monday, June 9, 2008

Meringue Chantilly & Pastry Cream with Cognac

Recipe from Ina Garten's Barefoot in Paris  
Husband Tested in Alice's Kitchen

Now that the berries are coming on, it's time to think about ways to use the bounty. I made these for good friends who had had a crummy day. We ate out on the screened-in porch while enjoying the bird calls. This dessert definitely cheered them up! You'll find local strawberries and fresh local eggs at Lost River Market & Deli and also at the Orange County HomeGrown Farmers Markets. Make these beautiful treats for a very special occasion. Top with fresh fruit such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, plums, nectarines or peaches. (Add a sprinkling of sugar to the fruit to sweeten, if needed.) Meringues are best made on a day with no humidity. If it’s humid outside, the meringues tend to “weep.” Meringues can be made several days in advance. Keep in an airtight container. The pastry cream can be made and chilled a couple of days in advance.

Meringue Chantilly
6 extra - large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Kosher salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Line 1 baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a small glass and a pencil, draw 6 (3 1/2-inch) circles on each piece of paper. Turn the paper face-down on the baking sheets.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, and a large pinch of salt on medium speed until frothy. Add 1 cup of the sugar and raise the speed to high until the egg whites form very stiff peaks. Whisk in the vanilla. Carefully fold the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar into the meringue. With a large star - shaped pastry tip, pipe a disc of meringue inside each circle. Pipe another layer around the edge to form the sides of the shells.
Bake for 2 hours, or until the meringues are dry and crisp but not browned. Turn off the heat and allow the meringues to sit in the oven for 4 hours or overnight. Place each meringue on a plate, fill with Pastry Cream with Cognac and top with fruit.

Pastry Cream with Cognac
5 extra-large egg yolks, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups scalded milk (to scald milk, heat it just below the boiling point)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon Cognac
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon heavy cream
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the egg yolks and sugar on medium-high speed for 4 minutes, or until very thick. Reduce to low speed, and add the cornstarch.
With the mixer still on low, slowly pour the hot milk into the egg mixture. Pour the mixture into a medium saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens, 5 to 7 minutes. Don't be alarmed when the custard comes to a boil and appears to curdle; switch to a whisk and beat vigorously. Cook, whisking constantly, for another 2 minutes; the custard will come together and become very thick, like pudding. Stir in the vanilla, Cognac, butter, and heavy cream. Pour the custard through a sieve into a bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on the custard and refrigerate until cold.
Yield: 2 cups

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