I’m with a majority of my friends…hell, with the general populous…in feeling that 2016 (for the most part) sucked gigantic donkey balls. The Presidential Election became and continues to be the longest running SNL sketch in American history…though we’re only laughing through our tears. Don’t even get me started on all the amazingly talented, seminal figures we lost, from David Bowie to Prince–Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds in the same week?? Oh come on!! No wonder somebody started a Go Fund Me page to protect Betty White from 2016. Laura probably would’ve done one for Bill Murray or Billy Idol.
For me personally, it was an often bumpy road to 2017, full of unexpected twists and turns–leaving a job that no longer gave me joy, in search of other unexplored opportunities with no safety net, then suddenly handed an offer I ultimately couldn’t refuse. A roller coaster ride? You betcha! But I guess you can say I’m a little bit of a thrill seeker, even if the ride sometimes makes me a little nauseous…it’s better than being bored or uninspired. That is not to say there aren’t parts of 2016 I would like to forget (like all the hateful political rhetoric and the outcome of the Presidential Election). Unfortunately, neither I nor others in possession of a reasonably sane intellect can pretend that egomaniacal half-wit who looks like a human Cheeto with a bad combover is even remotely capable of running the country.
So the best thing we can do is start over–take what we’ve got and try to turn it into something new, something positive. It’s not about reinventing the wheel, but imagining a better one. Or, how do we take something that is tired or broken and give it new purpose? While society is always looking for the shiny and new, eager to throw away anything that has lost its luster, there is something to be said about creative repurposing. That certainly the case for me when it comes to cooking and baking, whether at home or at work.
I wouldn’t exactly say that I’m necessarily frugal, but I do hate wasting product, especially when I can be creative and come up with ways to use surplus ingredients. Case in point, I generated copious amounts of egg whites making gallons of chocolate mousse in December. Freezer space was limited so I couldn’t freeze all of the whites to save them for later use. Instead of tossing out the surplus, I decided to make meringue roulades for the New Year’s Eve dessert. Filled with sumptuous cheesecake mousse, brandied cherries and bittersweet chocolate curls they were a delectably sweet elegant way to ring in the New Year.
For Christmas, I opted to make two flavors of meringue roulade instead of my traditional Buche de Noel, making use of ingredients I had available in the refrigerator and pantry–a vanilla meringue roulade with white chocolate mousse and (frozen) raspberries and a coffee meringue roulade (flavored with espresso powder) with whiskey-spiked coffee creme, dusted with cocoa. Both were extremely easy to make and well-received.
Unlike crispy meringue, which requires low and slow baking and can take twice long as to make, the softer meringue roulade sheets take just about 25 mins. to bake. Once filled the roulades can be frozen until ready to be thawed and served, making it a versatile make ahead dessert. Next time you find yourself with too many egg whites, just roll with it and bake a meringue sheet.
Meringue Sheet for Roulade
Yield: 1 half sheet
- 5 large egg whites (5 oz.), room temp.
- 1 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/8 tsp. sea or kosher salt
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- optional, 1 tsp. espresso powder or instant coffee, or 2 Tbsp. cocoa powder, or zest of 1 lemon
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Whip the egg whites and salt to soft peaks on high speed, then reduce to medium speed and gradually beat in the sugar a little at a time. Once all the sugar is incorporated, increase to high speed again and whip the whites until stiff and glossy. Beat in the vanilla. *Fold in any additional flavorings. Spread the meringue out evenly onto a lightly greased and parchment-lined half sheet pan.
Bake the meringue for about 12 mins. or until lightly golden, then reduce the heat to 325°F and continue baking for another 12-15 mins. or until the surface of the meringue feels firm to the touch but the inside is still pliable.
Loosen the edges with the tip of a paring knife, then invert the meringue sheet onto a sheet of parchment paper dusted with powdered sugar and peel off the underlining parchment from the meringue. Drape a clean dishtowel over the meringue and allow it to cool for 10-15 mins.
For a simple filling, whip 1 cup heavy cream with 3 Tbsp. powdered sugar and 1 tsp. vanilla extract for medium stiff peaks. Spread a layer of the whipped cream onto the meringue, leaving a 1 inch border all around. Top with fresh or frozen berries and a sprinkling of toasted sliced almonds. Starting with the edge closes to you, gently fold the border over the filling and carefully roll the meringue, lifting the parchment as you roll to help guide the roulade along. Tuck the parchment over and under the roulade and twist the ends to securely seal in the roulade. If you are planning to freeze the roulade, wrap it in an extra layer of foil. Freeze or chill the roulade (seam side down) in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours to firm up. Dust the roulade with more powdered sugar (or cocoa) before serving.