I'm a nut butter purist (some might say fanatic). I like what used to be called “natural” peanut (and other nut) butter—made only with nuts and salt. This means that I am resigned to stirring, simply because I don’t want emulsifiers, or other random fats, in my nut butter. And I certainly don’t want sugar or other sweeteners either. To preempt an inevitable question, nut butters labeled “no stir” always contain an added ingredient to eliminate the need to stir. All that being said, “no stir” partisans are free to use it if they love it. I would still argue against a sweetened nut butter, as that would affect the balance of the finished dessert.
Adapted from Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts (Artisan 2012) —Alice Medrich
8 to 10
well-stirred, smooth or crunchy roasted almond butter (see headnote), at room temperature
salt, as needed for nut butter
large egg whites, at room temperature
cream of tartar
(130 grams) sugar plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
1 1/2 pints
bush berries such as blackberries, raspberries, or strawberries, or a combination
heavy whipping cream
pure vanilla extract
(30 grams) sliced or coarsely chopped almonds
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 225° F. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper.
If the nut butter is unsalted, stir in a pinch of salt, or to taste.
Combine the egg whites and cream of tartar in a large clean dry bowl and beat at medium-high speed (with a stand mixer) or at high speed (with a handheld mixer) until the egg whites are creamy white (instead of translucent) and hold a soft shape when the beaters are lifted.
Gradually add the 2/3 cup sugar a heaping teaspoon at the time, taking 1 1/2 to 2 minutes in all. The meringue should be very stiff.
Scatter small spoonfuls of the nut butter over the meringue and use a large rubber spatula to fold it—but not completely—into the meringue, leaving visible streaks and pockets of nut butter. Scrape the meringue into the center of the lined baking sheet.
With the back of a large spoon, spread the meringue to form a shallow shell about 9 inches in diameter, with slightly raised edges. Sprinkle nuts around the edges of the meringue.
Bake for 2 hours. Turn the oven off and leave the meringue inside to cool. (Once it is completely cool, the meringue can be stored in an airtight container for at least 2 weeks.)
To Assemble: If using strawberries, cut them in halves, or quarters if they are very large. Whip the cream with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar and vanilla in a chilled bowl with chilled beaters until it is almost stiff. Spoon the cream over the meringue leaving some to nutty edges showing. Top with berries. Serve immediately for the crunchiest meringue, or refrigerate for up to 3 hours to let the meringue start to soften and merge with the cream.
My career was sparked by a single bite of a chocolate truffle, made by my Paris landlady in 1972. I returned home to open this country’s first chocolate bakery and dessert shop, Cocolat, and I am often “blamed” for introducing chocolate truffles to America. Today I am the James Beard Foundation and IACP award-winning author of ten cookbooks, teach a chocolate dessert class on Craftsy.com, and work with some of the world’s best chocolate companies. In 2018, I won the IACP Award for Best Food-Focused Column (this one!).