PRETTY IN PINK

Strawberry Shortcake Meringues | for the love of the south

February, the month of seemingly perpetual grey skies. When winter seems to drag on for all eternity and spring is nowhere in sight, in rambles Valentine’s Day in all its kitschy glory. This time of year, the world is in desperate need of a little color, a little life, and my answer to the call comes in the form of shockingly pink, cloudlike strawberry shortcake meringues worth swooning over. Usually I’m not one for kitsch, but on Valentine’s Day, I dive in head first.

These meringues are cartoonlike crunchy on the outside yet marshmallowy in the center. The crushed vanilla wafers remind me of slightly salty and buttery shortbread. Strawberries add a lovely tartness; meringues desperately need sharpness to balance out its sweetness. The flavor combination reminds me of those strawberry shortcake ice cream pops I loved when I was a little girl.

Yes, these meringues are over the top, but they are also a breeze to make. On Valentine’s Day, I would not have you chained all day to your oven or even think of asking you to reach for a candy thermometer. I want you to gracefully and confidently whip these up, feel like a domestic goddess and be treated accordingly. These beauties can be put together in less than thirty minutes. If you are like me, you will be watching An Affair to Remember while sipping on pink champagne as the meringues bake away in the oven. Once they come out of the oven, shower them with a final flourish of rose-hued strawberry dust. These meringues are prettier in pink, as all things are prettier in pink on Valentine’s Day.

Strawberry Shortcake Meringues | for the love of the south

Strawberry Shortcake Meringues

Makes 6 Large Meringues

Note: These meringues are adapted from Ottoleghi’s marvelous meringue recipe. He is the king of meringues. What I love most about this recipe is there are no candy thermometers or double boilers involved. I’ve included weights and measurements for the egg whites and sugar just in case you don’t have a scale. 

 

½ cup vanilla wafers

Pinch of sea salt

½ cup freeze-dried strawberries

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

300g granulated sugar (scant 1½ cups)

150g egg whites, from about 5 large eggs, room temperature

 

Preheat oven to 375oF.

Using a food processor, mortar and pestle or even a rolling pin and a heavy-duty plastic bag, pulverize the vanilla wafers. Add the sea salt to the crumbs and set aside in a shallow dish.

Pulverize the freeze-dried strawberries into a powder. Mix 1 tablespoon strawberry powder and vanilla extract together in a small dish, creating a paste. (Save the rest of the strawberry powder for dusting the meringues after they bake!)

Tip the granulated sugar onto a parchment lined rimmed baking sheet and cook the sugar for 7 minutes. Keep in mind the sugar is just getting hot at this point. You aren’t caramelizing it. This step ensures the meringue will be stable without having to heat the egg whites and sugar over a double boiler.

While the sugar is heating up, separate and weigh your egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer. Set the bowl in the base of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. (Don’t start whipping the whites yet!)

Take the sugar out of the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 275oF. Slide the sugar into a bowl and set the baking sheet aside to cool.

Start whipping the egg whites on high speed. Once they become foamy, add the hot sugar 1 tablespoon at a time while the mixer is running. Whip on a high speed for 7-8 minutes or until the egg whites form stiff peaks. The meringue should hold its shape if you flip the whisk attachment upside down. Fold the strawberry paste gently into the meringue.

Using two large spoons, scoop a meringue mound into the vanilla wafer crumbs, tipping the meringue to one side so the crumbs cover the bottom and half of the meringue. Pick the meringue up with both spoons and place on the cooled baking sheet. Keep in mind the meringues will expand in the oven, so give them space between each other on the baking sheet. Repeat this process until you have 6 large meringue mounds.

Place the meringues in the preheated oven and bake for 2 hours.

While the meringues are still on the baking sheet, place the reserved strawberry powder in a small sieve and dust the tops of the meringues until perfectly pink! Once the meringues have completely cooled, store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

VALENTINE’S DAY + A SWEET GIVEAWAY

Triple Threat Chocolate Cookies | for the love of the south

When I was a little girl, I let people know how much I loved them by stretching out my arms as wide as I could while saying, “I love you dissss much….” Giggles and cooing commenced, and I smiled, knowing my audience of family and friends were well pleased. Now that I’m grown, my affection is shown over a cup of coffee and conversation, a sweet handwritten letter, or, more commonly, a plate full of goodies.

There is something about Valentine’s Day that always makes me exultant. Rose and crimson blossoms strewn across the markets, lovely angelic cards being sent to loved ones, and the best part of this holiday is the divine excuse to eat piles and piles of chocolate. Whenever I began to think of what to prepare on this special day, I immediately started thinking of chocolate. Since it is a natural aphrodisiac, I figured a triple chocolate cookie would be the best dessert to make for Michael (also known as a triple threat)!

Barefoot and giddy as a schoolgirl, I threw on my crinkled, linen waist apron and began tearing through bags and bags of chocolate. Chopping the deeply rich morsels while watching thin tatters of chocolate wrinkle and pucker under the weight of my knife gave me a pleasure all its own. Ella Fitzgerald kept me company as she continued crooning about “These Simple Things” in the background.

Triple Threat Chocolate Cookies | for the love of the south

I melted the chocolate gently, stirring the gravel-sized matte shards until they slowly but surely gave way and became a gleaming pool of silken chocolate. Adding the melted chocolate to the batter magically transformed the mixture to an almost mousse-like consistency. I was already in heaven. Once the cookies bake and cool to a lacelike chocolate crisp, the only garnish these beauties need is a crowning glory of smooth and shiny glaze.

These triple threat cookies are a lovely display of affection, satisfying whoever is on the receiving end. I gave a plate full to Michael and watched him bite off the edge of the cookie. It shattered under his teeth and chocolate crumbs tumbled down into the depths of our taupe couch. He looked at me in sheer satisfaction. With impeccable timing and a humble heart, I asked him how much he loved me. He smirked, stuck a cookie in his mouth and with his arms stretched out as wide as he could, he said, “I love you this much!” Be still my heart…

Mohawk Valley Raw Honey Giveaway | for the love of the south

{Because y’all are the bee’s knees, I’m giving away an array of wonderful Raw Honey from Mohawk Valley Trading Co. All you have to do is leave a comment below, letting me know your favorite Valentine’s Day sweet treat! The contest ends at midnight on February 16th, and the winner will be chosen and contacted on February 17th!} Congrats to Emily who is the winner of the raw honey!

(A little about Raw Honey from Mohawk Valley Trading Co.: If you are planning to use honey for its health-benefits, it must be raw honey. Heating honey (pasteurization) destroys the all of the pollen, enzymes, propolis, vitamins, amino acids, antioxidants, and aromatics.)

Recipe: Triple Threat Chocolate Cookies

Inspired by Bon Appétit

Note: You can use your favorite chocolate in this recipe whether it is milk, dark or bittersweet chocolate. Also, you can make this dough ahead and keep it in the fridge. I would keep it stored in a container rather than try and make a log out of the dough (trust me, it’s too soft)!

20 oz. of bittersweet chocolate, chopped, divided

¼ cup of all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon of kosher salt

1 ½ cups dark brown sugar, packed

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

4 eggs

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

2 tablespoons of sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Heat 8 ounces of chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir until the chocolate has completely melted. Let cool slightly. Keep the saucepan out for melting more chocolate for the glaze.

Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in a small bowl.

In a mixer fitted with a beater attachment, beat brown sugar and butter together on a medium-high speed until fluffy, about 4 minutes. Switch to a whisk attachment and add eggs, vanilla and sour cream and whisk just until combined. Gradually mix in melted chocolate, whisking for a few more minutes (the mixture will begin to resemble chocolate mousse at this point.) Stir in flour mixture, and fold in 8 ounces chopped chocolate. Cover and chill until firm, at least 30 minutes.

On a parchment-lined baking sheet, drop heaping tablespoons of dough about 2-inches apart. Bake cookies, rotating baking sheet halfway through, about 15-18 minutes. Let the cookies cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes (this will seem like an eternity but they are well worth the wait!) Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Melt the remaining 4 ounces of chopped chocolate in reserved bowl and set over reserved saucepan of simmering water. Let chocolate cool slightly and drizzle glaze over cookies. Eat immediately if you cannot help yourself any longer (and do not mind chocolate smeared across your face), and for the more patient souls, allow to set for 15-20 minutes.

Encouraging Words & Chocolate Cake

Flourless Cake

Happy Valentine’s Day (I know I’m early, so Happy Valentine’s Week!)

I hope you feel loved and special today because that’s what you are. You are a wonderful person, blessed by those you meet. You inspire those around you with your passion for life. You are unique; there is no one else out there like you. No one else laughs the same, smiles the same or is able to brighten up a day like you can.

Never sell yourself short and always know you can reach any goal you set. No matter what mountain you are facing, know you have kind souls wishing you the best, cheering you on.

I hope that you are filled with so much love that it will be contagious, caught by everyone around you, and the world will be more radiant with you being apart of it. And I hope, oh dear, I hope… today, you eat chocolate!

If cake could mirror love, this is what it would look like. Love is not perfect; it has its cracks, its own imperfections. Some cracks seem like canyons and others like ravines, but still, we all have them. But love, like a circle, is eternal. And lastly, a bond greater than you and me covers love. It is ever forgiving, ever present, and ever lovely.

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”- 1 Corinthians 13:1-8

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Recipe: Inspired by Nigella Lawson’s Chocolate Cloud Cake

Makes 1 9-inch cake

*Note: When beating egg whites, make sure that the bowl you are whisking them in is completely clean and dry, or else the whites won’t be able to come to a semi-solid state.

9 ounces of dark chocolate chips (or milk chocolate chips if it’s one of those days)

1 stick of butter, softened

6 eggs, 4 separated, 2 whole

2/3 cups of sugar, divided in half

2 tablespoons of strong coffee

1 teaspoon of vanilla

Powdered sugar or whipped cream to garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

In a heatproof container, melt the chocolate chips in the microwave or in a double boiler. Add the softened butter to the warm, melted chocolate chips and stir until smooth. Set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whisk the 4 egg whites until foamy. Once the egg whites become foamy, slowly add 1/3 cup of sugar. Whisk until the whites are glossy and are able to hold their shape. If the whites become dry, alas, you have whisked them too long.

In a medium-sized bowl, beat the 4 yolks and 2 whole eggs together with 1/3 cup of sugar and melted chocolate mixture. Beat until combined and smooth. Add a dollop of the egg whites and beat into the chocolate mixture (really, you can beat them in.) Then, with your gentle lamb hands, fold in the rest of the egg whites. Don’t be intimidated by folding! Just breathe. Slowly, take a rubber spatula and fold the egg whites, spooning from the bottom of the mixture and folding over to the top. Bring your spat down the center of the batter and continue folding until the mixture is just combined. I believe that if you are intimidated or anxious, the egg whites somehow know this and they begin to deflate out of your lack of belief in them.

Pour the batter into a 9-inch spring form pan fitted with parchment paper on the bottom and let bake for 25-30 minutes. The cake should look cracked around the edges, but just make sure that the center is no longer wobbly. Let the cake cool in its pan on a wire rack. The center will fall as it cools. Run a knife around the edge just to make sure that there is no cake sticking to the sides. Remove the side from the pan and serve with powdered sugar, whipped cream and berries for your loved one (or for yourself, I wont tell).

Whipped Cream Cloud Cake

Flourless Cake