*This recipe was revised on November 3rd*
I wrote a novel two years ago and I need to re-start the difficult process of selling it. Yesterday, I went to a seminar on query letters. I walked in feeling extremely shy and nervous and like a misfit (because I was the youngest person in the room, probably by decades) and walked out feeling an incongruous combination of inspired and terrified. The woman hosting the seminar published a book eight years ago. While it wasn't a best-selling jaggernaut like Twilight or Eat Pray Love, she had what we all wanted: a published novel. But the speaker was breathless with angst over her currently stalled new manuscript and discouragingly candid about how hard the publishing world is.
Afterwards, I desperately needed security in my passions. I found it in both the kitchen—ironically with fire and knives—and in beautifully intriguing words like "pavlova" and "chantilly" and "coulis." I'm still nowhere closer to the perfect query letter or literally agent, but I did create something: the best dessert I've EVER had. It is light yet decadent. It is chocolatey and sweet and tangy. And it's reassuring that if I can make this tiny dream tangible, then maybe I can take on the bigger ones.
Adapted from recipe at epicurious.com
Toasted Coconut, recipe as follows
6 egg whites (about 1 cup of egg whites)
1 ½ teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup boiling water
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment.
Using an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, beat egg whites, cornstarch, vinegar, vanilla and salt until foamy. Gradually add sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Beat in 1/4 cup boiling water, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until whites are stiff and glossy. Pipe or spoon meringue onto baking sheets in circular shapes about 4 to 5 inches in diameter and 1 inch thick. (NOTE: If you have a piping bag or piping tips, it will be easier to make the meringues uniform, but a spatula works too).
Bake meringue for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 200°F and bake until dry and crisp outside and just cooked through inside, about 1 hour, although it may take a little longer. My meringues were a dusky light brown on the outside and squishy like marshmallows in the middle. Turn off oven. Let meringue stand in oven 1 hour and leave in oven until completely cool and ready to serve.
Store between layers of parchment in an air-tight container for up to 4 days.
1 ½ cup sweetened coconut flakes
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Spread coconut on a baking sheet. Toast until a light golden brown, stirring every few minutes to prevent burning, about 8 to 10 minutes. Do not leave the kitchen. It will burn very quickly. Cool.
This can be made the day before. Store in an air-tight container.
Chocolate Chantilly Cream
1 cup of heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
Chill metal mixer bowl in freezer for about 5 minutes. Sift sugar and cocoa together in bowl or onto parchment paper. Whisk heavy cream at high speed, gradually adding cocoa mixture while beating. You may need to scrape the bowl a few minutes to full incorporate cocoa and sugar. Whipped cream should be the consistency of shaving cream. (NOTE: Mixture should not be overly sweet.) Refrigerate any leftovers.
Red Berry Coulis
16 ounces fresh or frozen strawberries (if fresh, hulled and cut in half)
6 oz fresh or frozen raspberries
1 cup sugar plus more if needed
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
*If using frozen berries, make sure they are thawed.
Add all ingredients into a saucepan. Cook over medium heat until it boils slightly at the sides. It only takes a few minutes. Taste and add more sugar if needed. Transfer to blender and blend until smooth.
This can be made the day before. Refrigerate until ready to use and up to a week.
Chef’s Note: It won’t last a week. It makes fantastic margaritas, toppings for pancakes or base for smoothies.
Remove a meringue from cooking sheet. Place onto saucer. Spread a generous dollop of Chocolate Chantilly Cream on top. Drizzle with Coulis. Sprinkle on toasted coconut. Repeat process. Garnish with chopped fresh strawberries, if you have them. Enjoy!