In addition to not having much time for kitchen projects, I have also been feeling a little bored of myself in the kitchen. I tend to make the same sorts of things with the same ingredients. I felt like I was in a little bit of a rut. I decided to try something new in the form of these pecan rochers (boulders en francais). Little piles of meringue, filled with pecan pieces. I don’t have much experience with meringues and so this seemed like a good challenge.
I was shocked at how easy these were and how impressive they looked! You can really fool your friends into thinking you’ve got some mad pastry skills! The eggs whip up pretty easily in a stand mixer and then I used a large plastic storage bag with a corner snipped off to pipe them onto the cookie sheet. In 15 minutes magic happens and the meringues suddenly have a slightly crunchy exterior that crumbles into a soft and perfect center. They kept well for several days in an airtight container at room temperature. I think they were even better the second day. I tried these with both almonds and pecans. I definitely liked the pecans better, but feel free to play around. I am anxious to try rose water and pistachio which might be brilliant.
These were just what I needed to get me out of my slump and excited about cooking again. Sometimes we need to approach the problem in a new way or try out a new technique to get re-inspired in the kitchen. What new things have you tried lately?
Pecan Rochers (Inspired by the Almond Rochers in the Tartine cookbook and the pecan meringues at Floriole)
- 1 1/4 cup pecans
- 2 large egg whites, room temp
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1 pinch salt
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick liner.
Spread the pecans on an unlined baking sheet. Place in the oven and toast until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes, Let cool completely. Take 1/2 cup of the pecans and finely chop with knife or pulse a few times in food processor. Chop remaining pecans into 1/4 inch pieces.
Pour water to a depth of about 2 inches into a saucepan, place over medium heat, and bring to a simmer. Combine the egg whites, confectioners’ sugar, and salt in the stainless-steel bowl of a stand mixer that will rest securely in the rim of the saucepan over, not touching, the water. Whisk together and then place over the saucepan and continue to whisk until the whites are hot to the touch, about 5 -7 minutes. Remove the bowl from over the water and place on the mixer stand. Fit the mixer with the whisk attachment and mix on high speed until the mixture is very thick and holds glossy, stiff peaks when you lift the beater. Fold in the pecans and vanilla with a rubber spatula.
Immediately scoop the meringue into a pastry bag fitted with a ½-inch (no. 6 or 7) plain tip (or sandwich bag with corner cut off) and pipe onto the prepared baking sheet, forming mounds about 1 inch in diameter and spacing them about 1½ inches apart.
Place the baking sheet in the oven and keep the oven door ajar with the handle of a wooden spoon to allow moisture to escape. Bake the cookies until they puff slightly, crack along the sides, and feel dry on the outside but soft to the touch, 15 to 20 minutes. They will harden as they cool. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and let cool. They will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.
***Do not bake these on a humid day. They need to dry out and humidity is their enemy.
***Also, remember that the wooden spoon you are using to keep the oven door propped open gets very, very hot. Use a towel. Trust me.