Food Love: Meringues & Poppyseed Cake

I have been thinking of writing some food posts for awhile. It just makes sense since the kitchen is the heart of my home and where I spend half my day.  So, I am going to start with a dessert duo I whipped up last week, beginning with one of my favorites: meringues. I never knew I liked them until I ordered them at multiple bakeries around Portugal on a trip years ago. They were huge and perfectly crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside and filled with nuts or chocolate. The perfect confection in every way. They were NOTHING like the dry, overly sugared variety you can buy in tubs at trader joes. Apples to Oranges. Delicious apples to pretty grody oranges. If you have never had a homemade meringue, and judged all meringues by the store bought variety, I am telling you you are truly missing out on one of the best and simplest desserts. Just look at these next to each other & determine for yourself which looks tastier:

meringues{meringues at the Borough Market in London, Trader Joe’s meringues}

I came back from my trip hoping to find something like the ones I had in Europe & had almost given up when my foodie friend Becca took me to the super-fabulous-none-compares-to-it-bakery Tartine in San Francisco & there they were. For some reason that I am unsure of they call them rochers instead of meringues, but they are one and the same. Then a year or two later, the same foodie friend gave me this:

tartine bakery cookbookThese people are amazing chefs (as in they won the Outstanding Pastry Chef  James Beard award) and I am poor at following instructions (thus my total failure at making the shaker style lemon pie from this book), but if you stick to the recipe in their book, you too can be eating delicious “rochers” in no time. I especially love them with toasted almonds…Or put the nuts and mini chocolate chips in together-total food bliss! As an aside, if you are ever in SF you should absolutely take the trek over to Tartine and fill your bags with delicious goodies to take home to your loved ones, they will thank you!

Meringues are simple, but they can be a little tricky if they are exposed to too much humidity or if you don’t use enough sugar so don’t get too creative with the recipe. This one is pretty fool-proof if you don’t happen to have a copy of the Tartine cookbook. I have made them a few times and increased the amount of whites/sugar to get a bigger batch with good results. I also added a little more cocoa than the recipe calls for and chopped up some high quality chocolate and threw it in (didn’t have cocoa nibs). If you have any left over don’t store them in air tight containers, or else they will loose the crunch and get sticky. Here is a picture of how they turned out:

chewy meringues

{here is the recipe for these chewy chocolate meringues}

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Once you have made your meringues you will find that you have a whole bunch of egg yolks left over. In my case beautiful orange yolks from our neighbors chicken eggs, not to be wasted. You could make creme brule or a custard and that would be lovely. In my case I decided to try a new recipe and found a site that gives you dozens of recipes intended for left over yolks (who knew? the world wide web truly has everything). I read through a bunch of them and decided on a poppyseed cake from Smitten Kitchen. It was delicious. Not too sweet with good texture.  Texture is pretty much the most important thing to me when eating. I don’t eat entire bags of pirates booty for the flavor, it’s the strangely addictive styrofoam texture. Anyhoo, here is the cake:

poppyseed cake

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Happy Baking!

p.s. the picture of the trader joe’s meringues is from a post re:food photography from A Beach Home Companion