This cherry dessert was made with my son in mind who just turned 21. I had heard people tell me time and again “oh, they grow so fast” and at the time, buried in child-rearing, domestic chores, part-time work and the like I was thinking ” are these people nuts?”.
Well, they were right, kids grow fast, and the small boy is now a strapping six-foot-four man with a car, a place of his own, his own business and I am hoping he will pop in to say hello once in a while!
INGREDIENTS: 4 to 6 servings
FOR THE MERINGUE:
- 4 large egg whites
- 3/4 cup of granulated sugr
- 1 cup of toasted pecan flour
- 1 1/2 tablespoon of all-purpose flour
FOR THE PASTRY CREAM:
- 1 cup of whole milk
- 4 large eg yolks
- 1/2 cup of granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter (optional)
- 1 tablespoon of cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon of agar-agar
FOR THE CHERRY LAYERS:
- 3 cups of fresh cherries
- 1/2 cup of cherry jelly
- Make the meringue sticks the day before (or up to one week before); toast about 2 cups of pecans in a 300F oven for 10 minutes or longer till fragrant; cool the nuts and place them in a coffee grinder with the flour and pulse until powdery.
- Place the eggs in a bowl and beat till stiff, adding sugar gradually till stiffer and still shiny. Add the pecans by hand. Transfer into a pastry bag and pipe long sticks on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in a 250F oven for one hour or longer till dry and crispy. Cool and store until needed.
- Place the egg yolks and 1/4 cup of sugar in a bowl. Whisk either by hand or with a beater until the yolks are lighter in color, about 5 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining sugar over the milk (reserve 1/4 cup of milk to mix the cornstarch in) and heat the milk for one minute if using the microwave or on the stovetop until it is scalded (little bubbles appear on the edges). Pour the milk gradually into the egg yolks, stirring constantly and place the mixture over medium heat. Stirring it constantly, add the cornstarch diluted in a bit of milk and the teaspoon of agar-agar. Stir the mixture till thick and add the vanilla and butter. Transfer to a strainer and use the whisk to push it through so it is as smooth as possible. Cover the surface with plastic and store in the fridge up to three days.
- Wash the cherries and dry on paper towels; cut into small pieces. Mix the fresh cherries with the jelly (melt the jelly for 10 seconds in the microwave to make this operation easier). Set aside.
- Final assembly: Cut sticks of meringue to fit the serving bowls and place all around the rim of the bowl. Spoon several tablespoons of cherry mixture at the bottom, then the pastry cream then plop a fresh cherry with a stem on top. Serve right away or cover and keep refrigerated.
You can forego the agar-agar and use more cornstarch to set the cream; increase the cornstarch by another two tablespoons to get a stiffer cream.
The amount of meringue is more than is needed for this dessert; leftover meringue sticks can be eaten as cookies or used for another dessert.
The pecans can be substituted for almonds.