Egg Separation Anxiety never plagued me much, even if there’s no support group dedicated to its eradication. Mom taught me how to break open an egg delicately enough to slip the yolk from one half-shell to another over a cup or bowl while letting the albumen slide away, keeping the yolk intact and the white pristine enough for a good souffle or meringue. But do I think to do so very often? No, hardly ever. I really do love souffles and meringues, so it’s silly not to do a little egg separating and have a little bit of delicious, fluffy fun once in a while.
Heaven knows that inflated eggwhites are highly trend-friendly these days, anyway. All I have to do is have one little look at any of the menus, Pinterest boards, food blogs, or cookbooks that are current to be instantly engulfed in a vast snowbank of handmade marshmallows, mile-high mousses, and macarons. I think I can safely say that I am so far from being trendy as to have missed out on cutting any edge more exciting than my homely and unvarnished manicure.
Trends are usually overrated, anyway. Beaten eggwhites? Not.
Kransekake biscuits! The famed Norwegian celebration dessert, a conical construction comprising rings of ground almond meringue that, in my family’s recipe, is made with a fantastic, simple (nuts, egg whites, sugar. Period.) dough to bake up into lovely chewy cookies when broken for eating.
Meringue crusted tarts! Cinnamon crust, apple filling with tawny port. Rose water crust, strawberries in pomegranate curd, topped with candied rose petals and finely chopped pistachios. All sorts of options that imitate but don’t supplant the lovely Pavlova in their magical variety. A lightly sweet, crisp meringue topped or filled with soft fillings of fruit, custards, mousses, and the like makes for a heavenly treat.
And, since it’s holiday time hereabouts, my own variant of île flottante, eggnog with a meringue cap. I kept both very simple this time around: the eggnog being an extremely uncomplicated thin custard made with cream, whole milk, cane sugar, a pinch of salt, a whole vanilla bean, a good grating of fresh nutmeg, and a whole bunch of egg yolks—in this case, the yolks of eight eggs for a combined quart of milk and cream. Warmed to a near-scalding temperature while being whisked continuously, it thickened slightly before going into the refrigerator for further thickening and chilling.
[For those who wish, a nice tot of bourbon, rum, or brandy (or any other liquor or combination of them that you like) can give this dessert-y treat a grownup twist, as long as you’re grownup enough to imbibe intelligently and stay away from dangerous things like cars, cliffs, and ex-spouses*.]
Meanwhile, with the eggnog chilling in the fridge, there’s plenty of time to whip up the eggwhites into sturdy enough peaks to keep their winsome little curlicue tops under the broiler while getting a quick gilding. All I added to the eggwhites while beating them into submission was a big splash of lovely dark maple syrup.
* Note: Just in case anyone takes me too seriously, I should mention that I have the privilege of being married to a guy who has two genuinely excellent exes, and I consider them both fabulous human beings, so I only have to avoid the aforementioned cars and cliffs, myself. In fact, I’ll happily tip back some tipple with either of my predecessors anytime without fear of anything but conviviality (and possibly, hilarity) happening. It’s all about how the relationships are managed, just as it’s about how we manage our imbibing.