Spring dessert: Brown sugar meringues

April 10, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Create fun spring desserts that are easy to make and full of flavor!

The executive pastry chef of Farallon and Waterbar restaurants in San Francisco, Emily Luchetti, shares her spring desser recipes.

Brown Sugar Meringues with Strawberries
Makes 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 large egg whites
  • Large pinch of cream of tartar
  • 2 1/2 pints strawberries
  • About 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups crème fraîche

To make the meringues: Preheat the oven to 225°F. Trace eight 3-inch circles onto parchment paper, leaving at least 1 inch between them.

Sift or push the brown sugar through a fine-mesh sieve to remove any lumps.

With an electric mixer, whip the egg whites until foamy, 30 seconds. Add the cream of tartar. Increase to high speed and add the 1/4 cup brown sugar, a tablespoon at a time. Whip the egg whites until very thick and satiny, about 2 minutes with a stand mixer or 4 minutes with a handheld mixer.

Place a 1/4-inch tip in a pastry bag and fill it with the meringue. Starting from the center of each circle on the parchment paper, pipe the meringue onto the circles, making solid coils. Sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon brown sugar over the meringues.

Bake the meringues for about 2 hours, until they easily come off of the parchment paper. To test if they are done, remove them from the oven and let sit for a couple of minutes. Then, using a metal spatula, try to lift them off the parchment paper. If they don't easily come off, return them to the oven.

Place the cooled meringues in an airtight container.

Hull and quarter the strawberries. Sugar to taste with the 2 tablespoons granulated sugar.

To serve: Place some strawberries in the bottom of each of 8 bowls. Spoon some crème fraîche over the berries and top with a brown sugar meringue.

Planning ahead: The meringues can be made several days in advance and stored in an airtight container. If the container is not airtight, the meringues will get soggy.

Strawberry Gratin
Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 4 pints strawberries (about 8 cups), hulled and quartered strawberries
  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons half-and-half
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

Preheat the broiler. Arrange the strawberries in the bottoms of 6 shallow flameproof ramekins or other individual baking dishes.

In a bowl, whisk together the sour cream, vanilla, salt, and half-and-half. Spoon a thin layer of the mixture evenly over the strawberries. - Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly on top.

Arrange the dishes on a baking sheet, slip under the broiler about 4 inches from the heat source, and broil until the sugar has melted, about 1 minute. Serve immediately.

Orange Crêpes with strawberry yogurt filling
Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • Crepe Batter
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • Zest from one orange
  • 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, melted

To make the batter: In a food processor or blender, combine the eggs, water, milk, and vanilla and process until smooth. Add the flour, orange zest, sugar, and salt and again process until smooth. Finally, add the butter and process until mixed. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

To cook the crêpes: Heat a 6-inch nonstick or seasoned crêpe pan over medium heat. Pour in about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the batter and quickly rotate the pan, spreading it in a thin layer over the entire bottom. Cook the crêpe until golden brown, about 30 seconds. Loosen the edge of the crêpe with the edge of a knife or your fingers and turn it over. Cook until the second side is lightly golden, about 10 seconds. Transfer the crêpe to a plate. Continue to make crêpes in this manner until you have used all of the batter, stacking the crêpes so that they overlap slightly.

Planning ahead: The batter may be made a day in advance and kept refrigerated. The crêpes may be made a day in advance, covered, and refrigerated. They may also be stacked, with pieces of waxed paper between them, well wrapped in plastic wrap, and frozen for up to 1 week.

Strawberry Vanilla Yogurt Filling

  • 1 pint strawberries hulled and quartered lengthwise
  • About 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 cups vanilla yogurt

Stir together strawberries and sugar. Add more sugar if not sweet enough.

Spoon strawberries over half the crepe. Top with yogurt. Fold top of crepe over the filling.

For more information on the restaurants Emily works with, visit:
www.farallonrestaurant.com
www.waterbarsf.com

About Emily Luchetti, Executive Pastry Chef, Farallon & Waterbar:

Emily Luchetti, executive pastry chef at Farallon Restaurant and Waterbar in San Francisco, is recognized around the world for her award-winning sweet creations. With four cookbooks to her credit and numerous awards celebrating her mastery of the dessert world, patrons can always count on a delectable, exotic and innovative end to their meal. A 2004 James Beard award for Outstanding Pastry Chef has put Farallon on the map of dessert fanatics everywhere.

In 1997 Luchetti joined co-owners Chef Mark Franz and Pat Kuleto as executive pastry chef at Farallon. Celebrating more than 20 years of working with Franz, Luchetti began her Bay Area cooking career as part of the opening team of Stars Restaurant in San Francisco, starting as a line cook and working her way up to lunch chef. Her passion for making desserts eventually won the day, and in 1987 she became the pastry chef at Stars, a position she held through July 1995. During that time Luchetti was also the co-owner with Jeremiah Tower of StarBake, a retail bakery.

Luchetti graduated from Denison University in 1979 with a BA in Sociology. She moved to New York City and landed a job through The New York Times classified section with the all-important stipulation "No Typing Required." That job in a Wall Street executive dining room opened her eyes to how she could get paid for doing what she loved best -- cooking. From there Luchetti went on to the New York Restaurant School and worked in various New York establishments (including David Leiderman's Manhattan Market and The Silver Palate), building her resume and sharpening her culinary skills.

Luchetti has written four cookbooks: Stars Desserts (HarperCollins, 1991), Four Star Desserts (HarperCollins, 1995), A Passion for Desserts (Chronicle Books, 2003), and A Passion for Ice Cream (Chronicle Books, 2006). She contributed to The Revised Joy of Cooking (Simon & Schuster, 1997) and created the dessert recipes for The Farallon Cookbook (Chronicle Books, 2000).

Since the debut of her first book, Luchetti has passionately taught baking to dessert lovers across the country so that people can obtain the same enjoyment she does from creating something with her hands and providing delectable treats to others to savor. Fundamental to her passion for baking is the belief that desserts increase the social experiences and interactions of friends and family as they linger around the table. Luchetti and her recipes appear regularly in national newspapers and magazines and she has been featured on numerous news programs and The Food Network's The Ultimate Kitchen, Sweet Dreams, Cookin' Live with Sara Moulton and Sara's Secrets.


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