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The Magic of Meringue

Martha Stewart Living, February 2011

If I had to choose a single dessert from the many, many confections there are in the world, it would be tough. Most likely I'd settle on one that involves the sweetened and stiffly beaten egg whites called meringue.

No one knows who first whipped the whites of eggs into a stiff froth or who first poached beaten egg whites, creating soft floating islands, or who baked them in a low-temperature oven until they were dry and crunchy and biscuitlike. And no one knows for sure who first added meringue to lemon-curd tarts, making the famed lemon-meringue pies we all adore. But one thing is certain: Meringue is an indispensable dessert.

Last year it occurred to me that I needed to start editing my vast collection of recipes -- recipes that I have developed and others I have gleaned from my favorite cookbook authors, my staff of talented food editors and recipe developers, restaurant chefs, and even friends and family.

I really wanted to create a collection of the best of the best, and meringue desserts were one of the first groups I concentrated on. Here are recipes for two that are very delicious, as well as very useful to have in one's repertoire. One is Pavlova with Passion Fruit, a baked meringue layered with fruit and whipped cream; the other, Ile Flottante with Caramel, has a soft, cloudlike consistency and is covered with caramel and creme anglaise.

These recipes will be featured on my new cooking show, "Martha Bakes," which premiered in January on Hallmark Channel. The objective of the show is to teach important recipes that simplify the planning of a meal, as well as how to choose great recipes. I hope you enjoy these meringues and make them often.