Almond Pecan Meringue Cake
(Otherwise known as Coffee Pecan Meringue Cake)
Another Culinary in the Country winnner, this one adapted from Nick Malgieri
My family wrinkled their noses at the coffee aspect so I altered the recipe with the Almond flavoring. I did not change to almonds for the "crust" although that might have been good too. This tasted exactly like the puff balls I buy at the bakeries in Paris - a favorite treat while there. My daughter said it was actually better. Bon Apetite!
For the meringue
4 large egg whites
3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
2/3 cup pecans, finely ground
3 tablespoons cornstarch
For the buttercream
4 large egg whites
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoons almond extract
2 tablespoons vanilla syrup (like they use in coffee shops)
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
To prepare the meringue
Preheat oven to 300 degrees with the racks set in the upper and lower thirds.On two sheets of parchment paper, trace a 10" circle - turn the papers over and place each onto a large baking sheet.
In a large mixing bowl, add egg whites and salt - using the whisk attachment, whip on medium speed until whites are foamy and just beginning to hold their shape. Increase speed to medium-high - gradually add 1/2 cup sugar and whip the mixture until it holds a stiff peak. In this order, add sugar, pecans and cornstarch - gently fold into the stiff egg whites.
Evenly divide the meringue mixture between the two circles on the pans - using an off-set spatula, spread it to an even layer to fill in the entire traced circle. Place baking sheet into the oven and bake, rotating pans halfway through, until golden and almost firm, about 40 minutes.
Remove and place pans on a wire rack to cool completely.
To prepare the buttercream
Fill a medium saucepan half full with water and bring it to a boil over medium heat.In a large mixing bowl, add egg whites and sugar. Whisk mixture together a couple times to combine. Set bowl over the boiling water, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not come in contact with the water, and whisk gently until the egg whites are hot and the sugar has dissolved. Remove mixing bowl from the saucepan.
Using the whisk attachment, whip mixture on high-speed until the egg whites have cooled completely - if you touch the outside of the bowl, it should not be warm at all when they are ready.
When the egg whites have cooled, switch to the paddle attachment and add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, at 10-second intervals until all pieces have been added. Let the buttercream beat at medium-high until it is thick (really thick - when you think you've tanked the recipe - keep mixing) and emulsified - it will initially look separated or curdled, but continue to beat until it comes back together. Remember - thick.
When it has become thick, reduce the speed to medium and add the almond/vanilla mixture, a tablespoon at a time, beating until smooth after each tablespoon. Once all the syrup is in, continue to beat on medium until smooth and shiny, about 3 minutes.
If desired, trim edges of the meringue layers to a 10" diameter. Scoop all of the buttercream on of one meringue layer and spread it evenly to the edges. Invert the second meringue layer on top so the smooth underside is on top - press down gently to adhere the two layers.
Serve with a dusting of confectioners' sugar on top just before serving.
Makes about 12 servings.