This is a very special holiday dessert from the elegant past. I've never seen this recipe in any cookbook other than Private Collection (a little gem of a cookbook, BTW), which is all the more reason to try it. When you read through it, you'll say: I won't have time, or....it'll never unmold correctly. Not only is it quite easy to make (it's basically a meringue flan), but I've never yet had a problem with unmolding and you can make it in the morning and let it sit on your counter until serving time. You DO have to refrigerate the accompanying sauce however.
When the instructions say to smooth the air bubbles out of the meringue, it's easier said than done. I was very careful and you can still see lots of air pockets on the sides of the dessert in the first photo. I've never had one come out completely smooth, but then I'm not a perfectionist. I'm pleased to say, though, there weren't any air bubbles when I sliced the meringue (which is what counts) and I like the uneven look of the finished dessert, plus: those little pockets hold extra caramel. Yum.
Cooks note: trust me, you won't like the flavor of the sauce all by itself, but when served over the meringue, it's perfect. Don't skip it.
From A Private Collection, Cookbook from Junior League of Palo Alto
Ingredients for the meringue:
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
6 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
large pinch of cream of tartar
Ingredients for the sauce:
1 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
6 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
Method for the meringue:
Preheat oven to 275.
Get out a 9 1/2 inch ring mold.
Caramelize 1 1/4 cups of the sugar by stirring it in a heavy pan with a wooden spatula. When sugar has melted and is a rich caramel color, remove from heat and carefully pour into the mold, tipping it from side to side until the sides are well covered. Set aside while you beat the whites. Do not clean the heavy pan you made the caramel in, you will be using it for the sauce.
Beat the egg whites until they begin to take shape. Slowly add 1/2 cup sugar and continue beating until the whites are very stiff, more so than for an angel food cake. Beat in the cream of tartar and vanilla.
By hand, fold in the remaining 1/2 cup sugar.
Pile the mixture carefully and slowly in the ring mold, removing any air pockets as you go along. Place mold, uncovered, in a larger pan containing 1/2 inch of warm water. Place in the oven and bake for one hour. The meringue will be high, firm and slightly brown. Remove from the oven and quickly loosen edges of the meringue with a knife dipped in cold water so it won't tear. Immediately unmold on a pretty platter, allowing the caramel to drip over the meringue. Don't worry about the caramel left in the pan, some boiling water poured over it will melt it quickly so you can wash the mold.
Method for the sauce:
In the heavy pan you made the caramel in, pour in 1 cup milk and warm it. In another bowl, beat the egg yolks with 1/2 cup cream. Add slowly to the warm milk, replace over the heat and whisk until it is as thick as heavy cream. Do not allow to boil or it will curdle. Remove from heat and add the vanilla. Refrigerate until serving, then pass in a separate bowl.