Spring Desserts: Mocha Meringues, Berries & Custard Cream

Whether you celebrate Passover or Easter or just plain old wonderful spring, the egg remains the symbol of life and renewal. The two following recipes are a perfect match: one uses the whites, the other the yolks, and their flavors work great together. Plus, they’re Passover-friendly with only one minor tweak.

The thing is, I really love bread and bread-related products. For pasta, I am a bottomless pit. So for the one day (or seven, if I’m in a self-denying sort of mood) a year during which I must abstain from all things bread, what on earth am I supposed to eat for dessert? Matzoh flour does make an acceptable substitution (or potato flour) in many some recipes, and there’s the classic flourless chocolate cake. But I wanted something more fun this year so I made two things. Neither of them made it to the seder table–there might have been a teeny bit too much food already–but man, were they good the day after.

Mocha meringues

Mocha meringueThese were adapted from a recipe on Butter Sugar Flour, which was in turn adapted from a magazine recipe. To make them entirely kosher for Passover I ought to have substituted potato starch for the cornstarch, but I looked in three large, well-provisioned grocery stores and couldn’t find it, and gave up. I’m all about celebrating freedom from oppression for all people, all the time, but I’m not so much an observant Jew as a benignly interested cultural participant. Anyway, these meringues melt like cotton candy in your mouth, and have a surprising kick of flavor from that layer of chocolate. (Incidentally, I am wild to know the secret to getting the chocolate layer thicker, as in the photo on BSF’s website.) I made a double batch of these and it worked fine, and gave me six whole yolks to use in the custard.

  • 3 large egg whites
  • 2/3 c superfine sugar (or grind some granulated sugar in a coffee or spice grinder)
  • 1 t cornstarch
  • ½ t white vinegar
  • Generous ½ t vanilla extract
  • 2 T cocoa powder
  • 2 t ground coffee (add up to 1 tsp more if you want a very strong mocha flavor)
  • 4 oz high quality chocolate, such as Taza’s Mexicano discs, for melting
  1. Preheat the oven to 250°F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl or stand mixer, whisk the egg whites to soft peak stage. Keep whisking while you add the sugar slowly, until the mixture is stiff and shiny. Whisk in the rest of the ingredients (except chocolate) to combine.
  3. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a small plain tip with the meringue mixture; pipe 1″ circlets onto the parchment-lined pans. This should make about 60 small meringues.
  4. Bake for 22-25 minutes, depending on how crispy you like your meringue. Cool completely.
  5. Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler–or in a microwave, let’s be honest. Dark chocolate way preferable. (My local favorite producer, Taza, has a coffee flavor of their traditional Mexican-style stoneground chocolate; I used that to excellent results. I also tried their new ginger flavor, which I liked, but my discerning taste-testers did prefer the coffee.)
  6. Use a small spatula to spread the melted chocolate on the flat side of one meringue, and stick another on: voilá, meringue sandwich. Let harden, distribute, enjoy.

vanilla custard creamFresh Strawberries with Vanilla Custard Cream

Oh June, with your small, super-sweet local strawberries! Whenever will you arrive? Meantime, the berries come out of California are awfully good at the moment. I don’t let myself buy internationally imported berries, but once they’re in season anywhere in this country I just can’t help myself.

This easy custard cream is a fancy step up from the lightly whipped cream I usually serve with fresh berries, and I’ll be making it again. And again. I adapted this from several different recipes I found floating around the interwebs, none of which called for lemon zest–but I think it’s essential.

  • 2 pounds fresh strawberries (or other fresh fruit), washed, hulled, and sliced. If they’re under-ripe or not that flavorful, toss with about 1/4 c sugar and let stand for a couple of hours.
  • 1 vanilla bean*
  • 2 cups milk, cream, etc (I used 1 c heavy cream and 1 c 2% milk)
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 5 T sugar
  • zest of half a lemon
  1. Split vanilla bean and scrape out beans. Put beans, pod, and milk in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat and bring just to the boil. Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks and sugar in a medium bowl thoroughly to combine.
  2. Once milk mixture boils, pour a little bit into the egg mixture, whisking vigorously all the while. Add in a slow stream or by the quarter-cup until mixed.
  3. Return mixture to pot and warm over medium-low heat, stirring (not whisking, unless you see clumps forming, in which case turn the heat down a bit too) until the custard thickens, 4-5 minutes.
  4. Pour into clean bowl. Add lemon zest. Allow to cool for a couple hours in the fridge. Remove the vanilla pod before spooning over fresh berries and swooning.

* If you don’t have a vanilla pod lying around, do everything else the same except just whisk in a generous teaspoon of pure vanilla extract along with the lemon zest in Step 4. It won’t be the same, but it will still be delicious.

Strawberries and vanilla custard cream

About Margaret Collins

Margaret is a professional writer and editor with a checkered past including solar energy, the wine industry, and bread making. After receiving her BA at Cornell University in Narrative Writing, she traveled extensively before returning to her native Boston. She lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.
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One Response to Spring Desserts: Mocha Meringues, Berries & Custard Cream

  1. Nina says:

    This post, it keeps making me drool. I may have to make one (or both) soon.

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