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I like my chocolate desserts ultra bittersweet, my apple desserts tart, and my lemon bars positively puckery. But I’m wild about meringues.
You may be thinking that they are nothing more than a ton of sugar suspended in, um, nothing. But that ethereal dissolve-on-the-tongue thing is irresistible to me, and the seemingly infinite possibilities for adding flavor and texture and inclusions are even more enticing.
A few years ago, I started make meringues laced with peanut butter, almond butter, and even tahini. The nut and seed butters tempered the sugary sweetness of the meringues and added rich flavor and even more “melt” to that already-beguiling melt-in-your-mouth texture. I thought I’d taken meringues to a whole new place but I wasn’t even half done with the idea. Peanut Butter Pavlova was one stellar outcome of the experiment, and these new Sesame Rose Pistachio Meringues are right up there in a different way.
You can skip to the recipe right now if you like: The meringues are delicious. They are also pretty and exotic and flourless and gluten-free and, if you eat sesame seeds, eminently suitable for Passover. Thank heavens for something new, right? (If you don't eat sesame seeds during Passover, replace the tahini with almond butter.)
They also pair well with strawberries. (If you crumble them, mix with strawberries, and add whipped cream, you’ll get a truly epic version of Eton Mess.)
Or you can stay here and ponder the technique for a minute. As any meringue maker knows, you simply cannot whip a fatty or oily substance into meringue without deflating it. It turns out, however, that you can fold nut and seed butters into stiff meringue quite successfully—if you do it briefly and incompletely, at the last moment. I often leave streaks and pockets of nut butter, which also makes the finished texture exciting.
I’ve varied the technique a bit this time by using the nuts to help disperse the tahini: The pistachios are first mixed with the tahini, then scattered over the surface of the meringue (I use a spatula to push little bits of sticky coated nuts onto the meringue). After that, it takes very few strokes to fold the nuts and tahini into the meringue without over folding and deflating the batter.
- 1 cup (150 grams) raw pistachios, chopped, divided
- 2 1/2 teaspoons (3 grams) crushed (with your fingertips) dried rose petals (see headnote), divided (optional)
- 1/4 cup (62 grams) tahini, well stirred before measuring
- 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2/3 cup (130 grams) sugar
- 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 teaspoon rose flower water
About the rose petals:
Don’t pass up the recipe if you don’t have or don’t want to procure the petals. Their main purpose here is to make the cookies pretty—most of the rose flavor comes from the rose water.
Here’s what you need know about rose water:
- First, the goal is always to use just enough to add a hint of flavor and fragrance—too much makes things taste and smell unpleasantly like soap or perfume instead of food.
- Second, you want rose flower water—not extract, not flavoring, and not oil or essential oil: The latter are different animals used in different quantities.
- Third, don’t even think of buying that little bottle of rose water in the liquor store/department that’s intended for making cocktails: It’s not good enough. Instead, go a specialty shop, Middle Eastern store, or online and get a 10-ounce bottle of Cortas rose water (eau de rose) from Lebanon. It’s surprisingly inexpensive, keeps well, and you’ll find plenty to do with it later (see a few ideas below)—including cocktail-making. I consider it (and orange flower water) a pantry staple.
Are you a meringue maniac? Or do you find them so-so? Tell us in the comments!