Some years, the patriotic dessert of choice was some kind of tri-color Jello mold, frequently in the shape of the American flag. I’m not saying the Jello extravaganzas weren’t successful — and super classy — but a tart with strawberries and blueberries on a pastry cream makes a nice change. Because the recipe for the pastry cream called for six egg yolks, I decided to make meringues with the leftover whites as a sweet complement to the tart. That meant skipping the traditional melted jam glaze that always makes a fruit tart look professional and complicated when it’s not, but I didn’t want too much sweetness.
I didn’t like using corn starch or flour to thicken the pastry cream because that sort of grossed me out, so I substituted almond flour which gave it a nice almond-y flavor too. It occurred to me to try an all-nut crust next time with a chocolate pastry cream and do a gluten and dairy-free dessert. So stand by for that recipe!
Everything you needed to know about meringues but were afraid to ask can be found on Domino Sugar’s helpful site:
Meringues Baking Tips
This is worth checking out because meringues can be tricky unless you know the dos and don’ts of baking with egg whites (only beat them in metal bowls, avoid humid weather, etc.).
Fruit Tart with Meringues (no dairy)
1 1/2 cups Graham cracker crumbs
1 stick of Earth Balance
1/2 cup confectioners’ (powdered, frosting) sugar
2 cups of lactose-free whole milk (Lactaid makes this)
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean — halved
6 egg yolks (reserve the whites when you separate the eggs and leave out the whites to attain room temperature)
4 tablespoons almond flour
5 tablespoons Earth Balance
Meringues (see below)
About a dozen strawberries and a pint of blueberries or any fruit of your choice
Preheat the oven to 350.
Melt the stick of Earth Balance and blend in the confectioners’ sugar and crumbs. Grease a pie pan and press the mixture into it evenly to form a crust. Bake 6 – 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Put the milk and half the sugar in a saucepan over medium heat with the vanilla bean. In a bowl, wisk egg yolks with the rest of ingredients.
Just before the milk starts to boil, take it off the heat, remove the vanilla bean, and carefully dribble a small amount of the yolk mixture into the milk, stirring it continuously to ensure the eggs don’t cook! When about half the yolks have been added, place the mixture back over the heat and whisk the mixture vigorously, not missing any of the corners, until it thickens.
Once it thickens, take it off the heat and add the 5 tablespoons of Earth Balance. Mix well and strain if you want a creamier consistency (I recommend this). Place the filling in the cooled crust shell and cover with plastic wrap touching the filling to keep a skin from forming. You can now refrigerate it for a couple of days if you don’t want to use it right away.
Cut the tops off of the strawberries before decorating with them so that they sit flat.
6 egg whites (room temperature)
1 cup super fine sugar
A metal mixing bowl
Beat the egg whites until they are about four times their size before you start gradually adding sugar. Beat the mixture until the whites form stiff peaks on their own. You have to use a metal bowl for this and it must be entirely clean.
If you are more dexterous than me, use a pastry sleeve to pipe the meringues into cunning shapes like wreathes. If you are me, just blop the cookies onto parchment and bake for about an hour. Be careful not to open the oven or make loud noises in front of it or the meringues might fall. Or so I’ve been told. For more detailed information, about the art of meringues, see the Domino website above.
Yields about two dozen meringues, depending on the size of your cookies. My mother says they freeze beautifully too. Serving suggestion: Put an extra meringue on the slide of each slice. Printable version: