By day, I’m an office lady for a group of lively humanities departments. It’s a privilege to get to work with such a talented and diverse bunch, and I like knowing I’m supporting a vital but undervalued part of education. On the lighter side, I’m quite convinced that Christopher Guest could make a hilarious mockumentary about everyday life in my corner of academia. The ridiculous dramas and disparities have ranged from love triangles to budget crises, power plays to personality conflicts — to name just a few.
One such moment arose recently when we found an unopened bottle of Chambord in quite an odd place, and it was clear that no one had claimed it. Raspberry liqueur at the office? We just weren’t sure what to do with it, let alone where it had come from. Inexpensive wine is as serious as it gets at our event receptions, so this unusual violet vessel was destined for somewhere different.
I’d been itching to bake with raspberries again, and the newly-found spirits seemed meant to be transformed in my kitchen (then brought back to work to share in edible form, naturally). I decided on bite-sized meringues made with a Chambord syrup base, topped with tangy fresh berries and nutty poppy seeds. The outcome was wondrous: fragrant little treats with a lovely complexity and just the right amount of sweetness.
Raspberry Poppy Seed Meringues (makes about 100)
- 1 cup raspberry liqueur
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup + 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup egg whites (about 4 whites) at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
- 100 raspberries (about 18 oz), preferably small-sized
- candy thermometer and pastry bag
Line cookie sheets with parchment paper (I use one large and two small); set aside. Place two oven racks respectively at top and bottom third of oven, then preheat oven to 200 F.
In a small saucepan, bring the liqueur to a steady simmer. Watching carefully, let simmer until reduced to 1/2 cup, occasionally pouring into a heatproof measuring cup to check amount. This should take about 5 – 10 minutes. Once you have 1/2 cup, turn off heat.
In the bowl of a clean stand mixer, beat egg whites on high. When they start to become white and foamy, gradually add 3 tablespoons sugar. Keep beating until voluminous, opaque, medium-stiff peaks have formed; turn mixer off and keep nearby.
Add 1 cup sugar and the salt to the 1/2 cup of reduced liqueur in the saucepan. Stir, then attach candy thermometer and heat over medium-high, watching carefully. As soon as mixture reaches 230 F, quickly remove from heat; turn the egg-white-filled mixer to medium-high, and slowly pour hot syrup into the side of the bowl while beating. Continue to beat for 8 – 10 minutes, stopping when meringue has cooled to lukewarm or room temperature and is shiny, holding its shape well. (At this point, the meringue is cooked and can be used to frost a cake, be toasted with a torch, or even eaten with a spoon.)
Fit a pastry bag with the piping tip of your choice, then fill with meringue. On the lined baking sheets, pipe out little meringue nests — each about 1.5 – 1.75 inches in diameter, and about 3/4 inch tall, with a centered hole big enough to fit a small raspberry. Refill pastry bag as needed, and feel free to be skimpy with the space you leave between the meringues. (While they shouldn’t be touching, they tend to hold their shape well when baked, and there are many to fit in the oven.) Sprinkle poppy seeds over meringues.
Distribute the sheets of meringues onto the two racks in the oven, and set timer for 40 minutes. Switch cookie sheets from lower rack to upper rack, and vice versa, then close oven and bake for another 40 minutes. At this point, turn oven off and leave meringues inside for about an hour (not much longer lest they become gooey). Remove from oven. Meringues should feel dry and lukewarm to room temperature at this point. If they need more drying time, immediately return to oven (kept turned off) for another 10 minutes.
Working quickly, carefully transfer cooled meringues to containers with lids, such as cookie tins. If you live in a humid area like I do, I recommend adding a few desiccant packets, perhaps borrowed from your vitamin or medicine bottles. Just when ready to serve, top each meringue with a raspberry, rinsed and well dried. Note: These meringues can become a bit sticky, particularly in less-dry environments, so you may want to set them out gradually. In tins at room temperature, they last up to 5 days, pre-berry-topped.
Crisp and light with a whisper of boozy Chambord, raspberry poppy seed meringues offer a scrumptious harmony of texture and flavor. The fresh berries burst with a refreshing tang, while the salt and toasty poppy seeds balance perfectly with the sweetness. The flavor of the liqueur is not too robust, but notes of its warmth and fragrance are delightfully present. At the office and beyond, these addictive treats have proven to be a reminder that inspiration can show up in the most unexpected places.
Maybe next time… Akin to mini pavlovas, these meringues would be lovely with with a spoonful of whipped cream (unsweetened or barely sweetened) underneath or on top of the berry — and this would also amplify the already complex play of textures. A bittersweet chocolate drizzle could also be divine. While the raspberries are a lovely echo of the liqueur within, feel free to swap them out for another fruit (e.g., blueberries proved a great alternative in one version I made, and I’m already dreaming up a grape rendition…).