The term quinto quarto, “the fifth quarter,” refers to a type of cuisine born from poor, peasant kitchens, and the term itself originates from Rome...
Spring is here, and how about greeting it with a Meringata? This simple dessert is composed of two disks of ethereal meringue, baked to a delicate crispiness, and filled with a layer of sweetened, chocolate-flecked whipped cream. The technique is simple, and the ingredients are found in most of our pantries and refrigerators - eggs, cream, sugar, cream of tartar, vanilla extract, and chocolate.
Feel free to add chopped toasted hazelnuts or raspberries to the filling. Both are elegant matches for chocolate, and would elevate this simple homey dessert to the realm of the sublime. With a final flourish of homemade Chocolate Sauce, this delight from the Italian pastry kitchen will please diners young and old.
To attain optimal volume when whipping egg whites, separate the eggs carefully so that there is no trace of yolk in the whites, and be sure that the bowl and whisk are scrupulously clean as even a trace of fat will impede the whipping of the egg whites. Once baked, the meringue disks are somewhat fragile, so handle them carefully.
• 6 large egg whites, yolks reserved for another purpose
• ¾ teaspoon cream of tartar
• 1 ½ cups vanilla sugar
• ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Whipped Cream Center
• 2 cups heavy cream
• ¼ cup confectioner’s sugar
• 2 tablespoons whipped cream stabilizer
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 3 ounces mini-chocolate chips, or coarsely chopped bittersweet (60%) chocolate
• ½ cup light corn syrup
• ⅔ cup heavy cream
• ⅓ cup dark brown sugar
• ¼ cup natural cocoa powder
• 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate (60%), well chopped, divided
• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
• 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
• Pinch of fine sea salt
Make the Meringue: preheat the oven to 225 degrees F. Place the racks on the next to the lowest and upper middle positions. Use a pencil to mark a 10-inch circle on each of 2 pieces of parchment. Turn the parchment over and place each piece on a separate baking sheet.
Place the egg whites in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add the cream of tartar and beat on medium speed until soft peaks form. Increase the speed to high and add the sugar very slowly over the course of several minutes, allowing the sugar to dissolve completely and scraping down any sugar that clings to the sides. Continue beating until stiff peaks form and the meringue is fluffy, bright white, and glossy. If you rub a bit between your fingers you should feel no grit whatsoever.
Dab a bit of the meringue under each corner of the parchment. This will allow the paper to grip the baking sheet and prevent the parchment from moving as you work. Transfer half of the meringue to a large pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip. Form the bottom disk by piping a circle of meringue inside one of the traced circles. Smooth the top. To make the top disk, fill the piping bag with the remaining meringue and pipe a second circle. Use a small palette knife or a spoon to make small decorative depressions and “waves” on the surface of the meringue disk.
Place the meringue disks in the oven and bake for 90 to 100 minutes. The meringue may color very slightly. Halfway through the baking time rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back to promote even baking. When the meringue disks are baked, turn the oven off, leave the door closed and allow the meringue disks to dry in the oven for 3 hours. Transfer to racks to dry and cool further. Once cool, carefully pull the parchment paper away from the meringue disks.
Make the Chocolate Sauce: combine the corn syrup, heavy cream, brown sugar, cocoa powder, and half of the chopped chocolate in a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring frequently to avoid scorching. Reduce to a gentle simmer and cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Add the remaining chopped chocolate, butter, vanilla paste, and sea salt. Stir until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. Cool slightly and serve. Store, tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. The sauce may be gently warmed in the microwave. Makes about 2 cups.
Make the Whipped Cream Filling: chill the bowl and whisk attachment of a standing mixer in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Beat the cold cream, confectioner’s sugar, stabilizer, and vanilla extract on medium speed until fluffy and firm, but not grainy. Fold in the chocolate morsels.
Assemble the Meringata: place the smooth topped disk on a baking sheet and spread the whipped cream over it, reaching just to the edges. Smooth the top. Carefully place the remaining meringue disk atop the whipped cream layer. Cover the Meringata with plastic wrap and place it in the freezer for 3 to 4 hours.
Serve the Meringata: remove the Meringata from the freezer and lift off the plastic wrap. Transfer it to a serving platter. Drizzle the warm Chocolate Sauce over the Meringata. Cut and serve.
Vanilla Bean Paste and Whipped Cream Stabilizer are available from KingArthur Flour.com
Questions? Email me at adri@AdriBarrCrocetti.com or visit AdriBarrCrocetti.com