Merengón con Crema de Leche Redux
Clearing things out is stressful but I’ve also found a lot of things to hold onto. In that spirit, I remembered a post I had written when I was asked for and heirloom recipe. I immediately thought of my mother’s merengón.
I’d written about it here before and shot a simpler version with cake for the post that never posted. In my family, merengón con crema de leche is a nursery dessert that really came from the nursery. As a little girl on vacation in Varadero Beach, my mother was at friend’s house on a rainy day that kept everyone inside. Looking for ways to keep the kids entertained, they came up with this dessert which became a favorite at birthdays and reunions.
A combination of meringue and custard sauce made with condensed milk that is scooped into bowls or served over cake, it’s the kind of sugary traditional Cuban dessert you don’t see as often, though my mother still gets requests. More apt to feel her way through then follow a recipe, it is possible she’s never made it the same way twice.
A couple of years ago, I asked her to show me how she did it but couldn’t help feeling she was making it up as we went along. Laughing through our failed attempt, my questions weren’t answered until we found the original recipe tucked into my grandmother’s cookbook. Written out in her neat sloping handwriting, it gave her the last word as always, and I was grateful that she’d thought to take notes. I always think of heirloom recipes as being handed down, but in this case it was handed up. I’m keeping it.
4 large eggs, separated and at room temperature
1 14-ounce can of condensed milk
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup of sugar
¼ cup of water
1 small angel food cake or pound cake, sliced (optional)
In a small saucepan, combine the egg yolks, condensed milk, and salt. Stirring constantly, bring to a low simmer over medium heat until slightly thickened. Pass the custard through a fine mesh strainer into a clean bowl and stir in the vanilla. Set aside to cool completely.
In a separate saucepan, combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil over medium heat until it takes on a honey-like consistency or registers 230ºF on a candy thermometer.
Meanwhile, in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or using an electric beater, beat the egg whites on medium speed until they are white and opaque. With the mixer running, add the syrup in a slow steady stream along the side of the bowl, careful to avoid the beater. Continue to beat on medium until the meringue forms stiff, glossy peaks, about 5 to 6 minutes.
Pour the meringue into a mold or freezer-safe serving bowl. Drizzle in the crema de leche and swirl together but do not blend. It should have a marbled effect. Cover with plastic wrap and place in freezer until ready to serve.
The meringue can be served on its own like a custard or layered over angel food or pound cake to cut the sweetness. If using, slice the cake and layer in a small baking pan. Top with a layer of meringue followed by the crema de leche. The covered cake can be frozen then thawed a few minutes before serving.