It’s almost like a magic trick: start with such a small quantity of egg whites, and watch the volume increase tenfold. I love how these meringues turned out -- now that I know how easy they are to make, and how sophisticated they look and taste, I think I’ll be experimenting with many more flavor combinations in the future. For this recipe, I took tips about proportions and temperature from Will Torrent’s book, Pâtisserie at Home, and advice about process from the wonderful cooks at Food52 (http://food52.com/hotline...). —Cristina Sciarra
Test Kitchen Notes
I can't resist a good sweet-savory combination, especially when served in a delicate, bite-size package. The meringues were lovely on their own with a fresh, heady scent of basil and a wonderful crisp and chewy texture. I imagine them as an elegant nibble served with a French 75 or other champagne cocktail, but they could also play a supporting role with flavors such as a classic Caprese combination. Or I'd use the basil meringue in a Pavlova, with whipped cream and mango, or strawberries macerated in balsamic vinegar. Oh, the possibilities! —chezjewels
Wash the basil and dry it well, and then move the leaves to the bowl of a food processor. Zest the lemon (directly into the food processor, for ease). Add 2 tablespoons of the sugar. Set the bowl aside.
Empty the eggs whites and the lemon juice into a metal mixing bowl. Set the mixing bowl over a simmering pot of water, and beat the whites using an electric mixer on medium-low speed; whisk for about 3 minutes, or until the egg whites begin to froth. Add 3 tablespoons of the sugar, and increase the speed to medium; whisk until the egg whites are a bit stiff, 4 to 5 minutes. Now add the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, and whisk again, another 4 to 5 minutes. Turn off the heat under the water bath, and move the bowl to the countertop.
Pulse the food processor for about 20 to 30 seconds, until the basil and the lemon zest have incorporated into the sugar. (Wait to do this until just before you add this sugar to the egg whites -- you don’t want the basil to brown.) Add the basil-lemon sugar to the egg white bowl, and beat on medium speed, another 2 to 3 minutes. The egg whites should be tinted lightly green, flecked with basil, and stiff enough to form peaks.
Move the meringue into a piping bag. (I simply used a large, zip lock bag with a hole snipped into one corner.) You could also just use a spoon to scoop little clouds, if you’re going for a more rustic look.) Pipe the meringue onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. My batch yielded 16 meringues, but you can choose how large or small to make them.
Move the baking sheet to the oven for 1 hour, and then turn off the heat. Without opening the oven door, let the meringues rest for at least 1 hour, but up to overnight.
Cristina is a writer, cook, and day job real estate developer. She studied literature, holds an MFA in Fiction Writing, and completed the Basic Cuisine course at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. She lives in Jersey City with her husband--a Frenchman she met in Spain--and their sweet black cat, Minou. Follow her writings, recipes, publications and photography at theroamingkitchen.com.