strawberry heart meringues

happy valentine’s day everyone!

i’ve never been huge on valentine’s day. it’s probably because i’m perpetually single, or maybe i just think you should show your loved ones you care about them every single day! but i’m not adverse to the shades of pinks and purples, and heart shaped things everywhere. and as my nieces get a little older, i like the sweet valentines we exchange, telling each other what we love most about each other, and eating all the chocolates! i also love the ideas of PALentines or GALentines! it’s just a day full of love, and any reason to spread that much love and sweet thoughts (and candy) around, has to be a good day right? so yeah, i’m coming around to liking this day after all!

i’ve shared a couple sweet valentine’s day treats with you all this month, but one of my all time favorites has got to be these meringues! crispy on the outside, cloudy on the inside, these heart shaped confections are filled with a homemade strawberry sauce and then topped with a drizzle of zesty lemon glaze! they take a bit more time but when broken apart, the steps are quite simple and make for a very unique and beautiful scrumptious dessert!

*because of technical difficulties, i was not able to publish this post on the actual valentine’s day, but these are an amazing treat for any day! especially after valentine’s day when you’ve probably got a few too many leftover strawberries hanging around!

what is a meringue?
basically, when you beat egg whites with sugar until you get stiff peaks, you’ve got meringue! it’s a wonderful thing that can be made into a myriad of lovely desserts and foods. some familiar ones might be french macarons or the swirly toasted topping on a baked alaska! in this recipe, the meringue (more specifically, swiss meringue) is piped onto a baking pan and then baked at a very low temperature for almost 2 hours to create a nice and crispy exterior that holds quite a cloudy soft interior. these can otherwise be called “mini pavlovas”.

i mentioned swiss meringue on top because this is my favorite method of preparing meringue. some methods include heating up water and sugar before streaming it into egg whites while they’re being beaten. another method includes slowly adding extra fine sugar to beating egg whites, to gradually mix in and melt the sugar as it incorporates. but the swiss meringue is my method of choice. simply because it never fails me and i feel it’s probably the most fool-proof way of making meringue!

you simply combine sugar and egg whites into a clean bowl. i use the bowl of my stand mixer. setting this over a bain-marie, you constantly mix or whisk the whites and sugar for about 7-10 minutes until all the sugar has dissolved and an instant thermometer reads 170 degrees F. after that, you set it on your stand mixer with a clean whisk attachment, put it on medium high (i usually use the second to highest speed), and let it whip up into peaky perfection! this takes anywhere from 4-10 minutes depending on your mixer. add in a bit of vanilla, something acidic like lemon juice, and a bit of corn starch, mix mix mix, and you’re done!

i like to pipe this meringue for neater results but you can spoon in onto parchment paper lined pan, make one whole big pavlova, or several smaller ones. the variations are endless! i always pipe a few kisses with the remaining merignue.

on my search for the perfect swiss meringue pavlova recipe, i came across erin’s (from the cloudy kitchen)! i’ve always loved everything erin makes and i knew this one would be perfect too! head over to her page for more in depth tips and instructions for making this if you want! let’s get started!

INGREDIENTS
makes 12-14 mini heart meringues

for meringue (recipe from Cloudy Kitchen)
200g egg whites (about 6 large eggs)
350g granulated sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
2 tsp cornstarch
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

for strawberry sauce topping
2 tsp cornstarch
1 tbs water
4 cups fresh or frozen strawberries (i prefer ripe fresh strawberries for best taste), hulled, sliced in half
zest and juice from 1 lemon
1/4 c granulated sugar

lemon glaze (optional)
1 1/2 c powdered sugar
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tb lemon juice

INSTRUCTIONS

make the meringues
preheat oven to 335 degrees F. line the largest baking pan that will fit into your oven with parchment paper. set aside. prepare a large piping bag fitted with piping nozzle of choice, i used an open star wilton tip. place bag into a large and tall cup to help you transfer meringue into later.

combine egg whites, sugar, and vanilla bean paste in the clean bowl of a stand mixer. set bowl over a double boiler or bain-marie. constantly mix or whisk egg whites over low medium heat until mixture reaches 170 degrees F and all the sugar has dissolved.

remove from heat and whisk on high for about 5-7 minutes (depending on the power of your mixer) until stiff and glossy peaks. with mixer on low, add cornstarch and lemon juice, then whisk on high for about 30 seconds until completely combined.

with a rubber spatula, fill the piping bag with as much meringue as possible. hold the top of the bag closed with your hand and twist around once to secure the meringue inside. pipe about 3 inch hearts on the baking pan, filling in the heart in one layer. then, pipe a heart border on top so that you end up with a concaved area in the middle to fill with strawberry sauce.

place pan of piped meringues into oven. with the door closed, immediately lower the temperature to 220 degrees F and bake for 1.5 hours. without opening the oven door, turn off the heat and let meringues sit inside for at least 45 minutes. then, remove from oven and let completely cool. store in an air tight container in a non-humid area if not eating right away.

make the strawberry sauce
in a small bowl, dissolve cornstarch in water with a spoon. set aside. in a medium saucepan, combine sugar and lemon zest. with your fingers, massage the sugar and lemon zest together for a minute. then combine all the ingredients for the sauce into the saucepan. place over medium heat, mixing to combine everything. bring to a simmer. let simmer for 6-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until mixture is thickened slightly. remove from heat and pour into a heat safe bowl to cool completely. it will thicken more as it cools. chill in refrigerator.

assemble
once meringues and strawberry sauce are completely cooled, spoon sauce into meringues.
for optional lemon glaze, combine glaze ingredients in a medium bowl and mix well. if consistency is too thin, add a tablespoon or two more powdered sugar, if too thick, add a teaspoon or two more lemon juice. drizzle of spoon glaze on top of strawberry sauce.

enjoy! sending love to you all! thank you so much for your support always!

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