cinnamon rose meringues + a tea menu

cinnamon rose meringues

It feels weird to write this Valentine’s Day post starting with a rant, but at least it’s a very silly rant, so here it goes… There are a couple food writing clichés that kind of get on my nerves. The one that most ruffles my feathers (we’ve all done it, myself included) is when someone takes a perfectly good food, invents a problem by claiming they actually don’t really like it for x, y, and z reasons, and then solves the problem with a magical recipe that changes everything.

Like, “Guys, I just hate brownies. They’re so chocolatey and chewy instead of light and fluffy, and they have that awkward crackly layer on top that crumbles apart when you slice pieces. But this recipe for brownies will make even brownie haters happy.” Like, none of these things are actual problems. This is not a food that needs to win people over, because to know brownies is to love them. And the 1% of people who don’t like brownies can console themselves with a chocolate chip cookie.

So it’s with a lot of hesitation (and probably a little irony) that I’m about to say this next sentence:
… I hate meringues.
They’re certainly beautiful, but they usually taste awful, and I don’t really understand why people continue to buy them in cute pastry shops, order them for weddings, and—presumably?—eat them. They’re so sugary that they kind of hurt my teeth. Their texture is like what I’d imagine a fine-grained pumice stone would taste like if it could melt in your mouth. Whatever you flavor them with will just end up tasting like sugar, and nothing else.

But (again, waiting for lightning to strike me down for my hypocrisy as I type this), I recently found a way to actually enjoy eating meringues as much as I love making and looking at them. The secret? Cream cheese frosting and yogurt. The idea was inspired by Samin Nosrat’s Salt Fat Acid Heat. Meringues are in desperate need of both fat and acid, and cream cheese frosting and yogurt have plenty. Because of their acidity, the pairing is a million times more delicious than buttercream and whipped cream, two rich ingredients you’ll more commonly find paired with meringues.

You could pretty much stop reading here, and take away the idea of using cream cheese frosting and yogurt with meringues next time you bake them for a baby shower or Galentine’s Day party (by the way, did you notice that no one ever bakes meringues for themselves? It’s always for other people. Very suspicious…). But if you’re interested, I’ve also included a tea party menu, where you bake a bunch of meringues, whip up some cream cheese frosting, bake a sponge cake, and then assemble a bunch of delicious treats with a few store-bought ingredients. Feel free to make the menu for your next big get-together, or just take the individual ideas as inspiration.

My last complaint about meringues is actually just a bit of practical advice. Don’t bake meringues when it’s humid. Just don’t do it. Even if you can get them to fully dehydrate in the oven, they’ll immediately start absorbing moisture from the air like those little silica packets you find inside brand new shoeboxes, and they’ll turn to goo within hours, if not immediately. If you absolutely must make them on a rainy day, make sure you work in a climate-controlled room, allow them to fully dehydrate in the oven, and then pop the meringues in an air-tight bag about a minute after they come out of the oven, and you should be just fine. They’ll keep that way for a week or two, but if it’s humid outside, you’d better serve them just as soon as you reopen the plastic bag.

cinnamon rose meringues

a meringue tea party

download a PDF to print

your favorite tea
your favorite tea sandwiches
petit meringue-studded cakes
little meringue sandwiches
eton mess yogurt parfait

the building blocks: meringues & frosting

cinnamon rose meringues

yield: 10 to 12 dozen small meringues
active time: 25 minutes
total time: 2 hours

  • 6 large egg whites (about 210 grams)

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

  • 1 3/4 cup granulated sugar (340 grams)

  • 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons rosewater (I use 1 1/2 teaspoons)

  • 1 teaspoon "true" cinnamon*

  • about 12 drops pink food coloring (or a couple drops of red)

  • extra cinnamon for sprinkling

  • (optional) edible dried rose petals and extra cinnamon for sprinkling

  1. Wait for a dry day.** Preheat the oven to 225° F convection (105° C).

  2. Combine the egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large stainless steel bowl if you're using a hand mixer) fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk at medium-low until frothy. Increase to medium and start to slowly add the sugar in a steady stream with the mixer running. Once the sugar is incorporated, add the rosewater, and increase to medium-high or high speed. Beat to stiff peaks.*** Add the cinnamon and food coloring toward the end of beating, or fold it in at the end.

  3. Pipe and/or scoop the meringue onto a parchment-lined baking sheet (I use an oversized star tip and a cookie scoop for this recipe). Don't worry about leaving too much room between them, as they won’t expand much.

    • To make meringue kisses (or star kisses, as pictured here), hold the piping tip pointed directly down, about 1/2 inch above the parchment, letting the bottom of the kiss fill out a bit before dipping in a tiny bit, and then lifting up. Use a steady stream, and don't worry about making them look uniform (have a confident hand and work somewhat quickly, gradually twisting the top of the bag to keep pressure on it).

    • To make more rustic scoops, use a leveled cookie scoop, and try to just let them drop onto the parchment from about 1/2 inch above. Don't mess with them, and don't worry if they don't all look the same. That's part of the appeal.

    • Optionally sprinkle some of the meringues with rose petals and/or a little extra cinnamon.

  4. Bake for about 1 hour for small meringues, longer for larger ones. Let them cool in the oven with the door open, to dry out completely. The meringues are done once they lift easily from the parchment and are crunchy all the way through once cool. You can store them in a tightly-sealed container or bag for about 1 to 2 weeks at room temperature.

* "True" Ceylon cinnamon has a delicate flavor, which doesn't overwhelm the rosewater. You can also use cassia cinnamon (more common in the US), which has more bite. Spice to taste, and hold back a little with cassia.
** It’s really important to bake meringues on a dry day. If you absolutely need to bake them on a humid day, make sure you do so in a climate-controlled room. You’ll probably need to bake them a while longer to dry all the way. Once they’ve baked through and are dry to their centers, let them cool for just a couple minutes, and move them straight to an air-tight bag or container. If you let them sit out too long, they’ll get sticky and turn to goo.
*** Stiff peaks means that when you lift the beaters, the peak that forms won't fall over, but will stay sticking up (it might wobble a little, but it will bounce right back to where it started). You should be able to hold the mixing bowl over your head without any risk of disaster. As soon as stiff peaks form, stop beating before it is overdone (check it periodically to make sure you don't overshoot).

cream cheese frosting

  • 2 8-ounce bricks of cream cheese, softened to room temperature *

  • 1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) butter, softened to room temperature

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 2 cups (330 grams) powdered sugar

  1. Mix together the cream cheese, butter, salt, and powdered sugar over low speed with a stand mixer and whisk attachment. Once the powdered sugar is all mixed in, increase speed to medium-high, and continue mixing until it lightens in color and consistency (this should take about 2 minutes). Use at room temperature.

* This makes a lot of frosting, so that you have enough to decorate both the mini cakes and fill the sandwiches. Feel free to halve the recipe if you're not baking for a crowd, and want to have a lot of plain meringues left.

cinnamon rose meringues
cinnamon rose meringues

petit meringue-studded cakes

  • 5 large eggs (260 grams)

  • 120 grams granulated sugar

  • 120 grams all purpose flour

  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • cream cheese frosting

  • meringues

  • (optional) ground pistachios for sprinkling

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F convection, and line the bottom of a 12x16-inch nonstick rectangular pan with parchment paper.*

  2. Combine the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer (or use a stainless steel bowl and hand-held mixer). Beat on medium-high with the whisk attachment until it looks like this (about 5 to 8 minutes). It should increase significantly in size and become much lighter in color. When you lift the beaters, the trail will slowly disappear back into itself after 1 full second ("one Mississippi").

  3. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Sift about 1/3 of the flour mixture evenly over the surface of the whipped eggs/sugar and carefully fold it in with a rubber spatula, scraping the bottom. Repeat with the next 1/3, and then the final 1/3.

  4. Spread the batter evenly all the way to the edges of the parchment-lined pan (careful that the parchment doesn’t shift). Drop the pan from about an inch above the counter once or twice to knock out any big air bubbles (don't worry, it won't collapse).

  5. Bake for about 10 to 15 minutes (in my oven it takes 13 minutes, but it can vary). To test for doneness, gently press on the surface toward the middle—it should spring back after a second. Carefully run a knife around the edges to free the cake (go around once sawing up and down, then once dragging the knife), and invert it onto a (non-onioney) cutting board. Peel off the parchment, and let it cool for about 30 minutes.

  6. Once cool, use a very large cookie cutter to stamp out as many rounds as you can. Enjoy or discard the scraps. Build the cakes by sandwiching a thin layer of frosting between layers of sponge, and building up at least 4 layers of sponge per cake (you'll probably end up with 2 5-layer cakes, depending on the size of your cookie cutter). Make sure they're straight, and then frost the tops and sides with an off-set spatula (using a rotating turntable, if you have one).

  7. Move the cakes to their plate or display (carefully lift each with a spatula), and decorate with the meringues however you'd like (optionally, sprinkle with pistachios after the meringues go on). Save the rest of the frosting for making little meringue sandwiches. The cakes can be made hours ahead of time, but don’t decorate with meringues until the hour before serving, or they will soften too much.

* If you don't have convection, it'll just take a little longer.

cinnamon rose meringues
cinnamon rose meringues

little meringue sandwiches

  • meringues

  • cream cheese frosting

  • ground pistachios or sprinkles

  1. Use the rest of the cream cheese frosting to sandwich more meringues together. Pipe (or spoon) a generous tablespoon of frosting in the center of one meringue, and then squeeze another meringue on top, letting the frosting balloon out of the sides a little.

  2. Immediately roll the sides in ground pistachios or sprinkles. These should be made within an hour of serving.

cinnamon rose meringues
cinnamon rose meringues

Eton mess yogurt parfait

  • plain yogurt (either whole milk or 0% fat)

  • strawberry or raspberry preserves or jam

  • strawberries or raspberries

  • meringues

  1. You can serve a family-style bowl, which people can scoop from, or you can serve them individually (which is much more of a tea party thing, but either will totally work). Clear bowls, glasses, etc., work best, but tea cups or little bowls work great too (just try to keep them on the small side if you're serving individual portions). Don't use tall champagne flutes, even though they look festive, because they're difficult to eat from (and also a pain to plate).

  2. Swirl several spoonfuls of the jam/preserves into the yogurt (sweeten it to taste, and only fold it a couple times to keep it swirled). Scoop spoonfuls of the yogurt into the serving bowl/bowls, top with berries and meringues, and serve immediately. Or make and plate everything ahead, and add just add the meringues at the last minute.

cinnamon rose meringues

tahini sauce variations | sunday night meal prep

There's a pretty classic comedy trope where a super methodical, high strung person gets called out for being way too uptight, and then tries to pretend to be laid back and cool (and of course fails), and that's kind of how I've felt writing these last few posts in this tahini series. It's like when Anthony Michael Hall pretends to have a girlfriend in Canada in the Breakfast Club. Or maybe it's more like when Cameron lets Ferris borrow his dad's Ferrari, only to let the unmanned car go crashing through the glass garage into the woods. If only you could be a fly on the wall, watching me spend forever editing and paring down my instructions until they finally seem casual enough. It's like I'm back in high school, spending forever crafting the perfect text message that makes me seem aloof and uninterested. I am totally out of my depth.

So it probably goes without saying that I usually prefer writing extremely detailed recipes, because I don't think it's practical to assume that everyone already knows how to do everything (and that's ok!). I remember when I first started learning how to cook a long, long time ago, hearing an instruction like "season to taste" meant nothing to me, and I wished that all recipes at least gave a ballpark estimation. Indeed, back then, whenever I heard "season to taste," I would always just use a little tiny pinch, or a few shakes from the salt shaker, which is almost never enough. It took years of practice to learn how to season without a recipe, which is a skill everyone should try to develop. But if you try to learn this skill without any guidance, you're going to eat a lot of bland food, and then a lot of inedibly salty food, before you figure it out, which is why I always let you know the amount I use. (And I just figure that people who don't really need to be told can just ignore the instruction.)

But there are certain things that most people know how to cook without much guidance. You know how to chop ingredients up and turn them into a salad. You probably know how to cook a piece of salmon or chicken breast. You probably know how to roast veggies. And so the inspiration behind this tahini series hasn't been techniques or formulas, but learning to pair simple food with a simple sauce for a delicious dinner.

So to close out this series, I've put all of the tahini sauce variations together in one place, and I've also included some Sunday night meal prep examples. But guyssss, the meal plans are totally caaaasual—no worries (I'm laidback now!!!). So here's the idea: you make one or two batches of plain tahini sauce, and then, over the course of the week, you add a few simple ingredients to the sauce for a whole bunch of different meals. One simple tahini sauce ends up transforming all the usual weeknight dinners into delicious meals.

tahini lemon sauce variations

tahini sauce base

1/4 cup tahini
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste

  • Whisk everything together until it smooths out and thickens.

tahini date salad dressing

tahini sauce base + 2 tablespoons date syrup (or 1 1/2 tablespoons honey)

Serve with: a sweet summer salad, fruit salad, roast veggies (especially eggplant), or anywhere you'd use honey mustard dressing, e.g., as a dipping sauce for chicken fingers. Pictured here: salad with spinach, cherries, tomatoes, cucumbers, almonds, and ground pistachios

extra-savory tahini sauce

tahini sauce base + 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin + 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander + 1 clove garlic, crushed through a press

Serve with: grain bowls, falafel, grilled meat, shawarma, roast veggies (especially fall veggies), chicken breast, London broil. Pictured here: freekeh, chickpeas, slow roast tomatoes, roast sweet potatoes and broccoli

herby tahini yogurt sauce

tahini sauce base + 1/4 cup plain whole milk Greek yogurt + 2 tablespoons minced herbs (any combination of parsley, mint, dried mint, cilantro, and/or dill) + 1 clove garlic crushed through a press (optional) + a pinch more of salt

Serve with: salmon, dark leafy greens, roast veggies (especially spring veggies), biryani, falafel, shawarma, slaws, salads, anywhere you'd use a creamy salad dressing

Sunday night meal prep

Make as much tahini dressing base as you'd like for the week (it will keep for at least 1 week in the fridge, and you can always make more). Choose a few of the following dinners, and shop and prep for them. When it's time to make dinner, take some of the tahini base, mix in a few of the necessary extras, and cook dinner as usual.

easy open-face sheikh mahshi / stuffed eggplant (gluten free)

Halve lengthwise and cross-hatch some eggplants. Season them with salt, let them sit cut-side-down for 15 minutes, and then grill or broil them cut-side-up until they're golden brown and charred in a few spots. Separately, sauté some onion and garlic, then sauté some ground beef, sprinkle on some baharat (or just paprika, black pepper, and cumin), and season everything to taste. Once it's cooled down a little, stir chopped parsley into the ground beef. Once the eggplants are out of the oven, place them cut-side-up on a serving tray and top with the filling and tahini yogurt sauce.
To prep ahead: make the filling ahead of time, and reheat as needed.

steak salad (gluten free)

Season and grill some steaks or a London broil to medium-rare. Let it rest, and then slice against the grain. Serve over chopped romaine or iceberg, top with sliced radishes, chives, crispy chopped bacon, crumbled blue cheese, and halved cherry tomatoes, and drizzle with extra-savory tahini dressing.
To prep ahead: wash and prep the veggies and cook the bacon.

summery salad (vegan or vegetarian)

Toss together greens, your favorite stone fruit, halved cherry tomatoes, diced cucumbers, your favorite nuts, chickpeas (or another legume), and drizzle with tahini date salad dressing. Serve alongside a crusty multi-grain loaf of bead. To turn this into a vegetarian salad, add some blue cheese or parmesan shavings.
To prep ahead: wash and prep the veggies, and assemble the salad at the last minute.

your favorite grain bowl (vegan, gluten free)

Sauté some mushrooms or slow roast some tomatoes, boil your favorite grain (brown rice [gf], farro, freekeh, barley, etc.), roast some sweet potatoes and broccoli (or another leafy green), sauté some chicken breast or strain and rinse a can of chickpeas. Let everyone build their own bowl, and drizzle with the extra-savory tahini sauce.
To prep ahead: cook each component, and microwave them at the last minute.

grilled salmon (gluten free)

Grill some salmon, sauté your favorite leafy greens, make some yellow rice, and serve everything with the tahini yogurt sauce and lemon wedges.
To prep ahead: buy frozen salmon and defrost in the fridge the night before. Wash and chop the greens.