I knew it would snow again. How awesome for us that we could backcountry ski fresh snow in our local mountains one day, then go for a trail run in these same mountains the next day. The weather is a spring mix bouquet – it’s got a little bit of everything going on right now. We are rolling with it, because staying indoors is not an option.
sunrise clouds revealing new snow
a fast-moving thunderstorm at sunset
Jeremy and I have been waiting for a window of good weather all month when the snow is still decent in the high country. Active storms, cooler weather, and work obligations finally cleared this weekend. We pounced on the opportunity to get Neva out for her first ski backpack. It was an overnight trip into our local backcountry and we kept it simple for our own sanity as well as Neva’s safety. Unlike summer backpacking, early season backpacking involves more bulk and weight to account for cold nights, camping on snow, potential storms, and ski equipment. Although the forecast thunderstorms never materialized, we camped below treeline to be safe. Of course, Neva had the time of her life romping in the snow, getting extra food and snacks (she burned a lot of calories), catching the scent of a bazillion wild animals, and hogging our sleeping bags all night.
neva cools off in the snow – it was a scorching 70°f
skinning uphill with a heavy pack and a dog that likes to pull every which way is hard work
clouds building on the divide
home for the night
When Jeremy first introduced me to backpacking in March of 1993, he explained that it is “the endeavor of a thousand little discomforts”. But with experience, we learned to minimize, ignore, or accept those discomforts in exchange for the freedom of the hills. Ski backpacking with a one-year old crazy dog definitely adds more complexity and even pain. An outsider might regard this activity as recreation, but Jeremy and I definitely classify it as fun #2. Worth it? Absolutely. Will we take Neva again? We’ll see.
pre-dawn colors in the east
breaking down camp at 6:30 am
hiking the last couple of miles out
As the sun lingers in the sky for a few more minutes each day, my mind turns to tropical flavors. If anything tastes like sunshine, it is passion fruit. I’ve gone to great lengths in the past to procure fresh passion fruit, but sometimes I have to suck it up and buy some at outrageous prices here in Colorado for a shoot. Never let it be said that I have ever allowed a passion fruit to go to waste. Actually, I hate waste in general, which is why I wound up making these passion fruit meringues – because I always have an excess of egg whites in my refrigerator!
eggs, sugar, passion fruit
precious pulp and juice
If you ever have more passion fruit than you can handle (is this even possible?) it’s easy enough to cut the fruit in half, scoop out all of the pulp and juices, and freeze it to use later. Or call me and I’ll take them off your hands. For this recipe, if you can’t get fresh passion fruit, use frozen pulp or purchase frozen purée.
whites, passion fruit pulp, sugar
My favorite meringue follows Yotam Ottolenghi’s technique because adding hot sugar to the whipped egg whites creates a chewy inside and crunchy exterior. The meringues require several hours in a low oven, but these lovely clouds of delicate sugar are worth it.
spread the sugar on a baking sheet and heat in an oven
beat the egg whites until frothy, then add the hot sugar
whip to stiff peaks
The passion fruit pulp has a little too much liquid straight out of the fruit. To reduce the pulp, simmer it down until it is thickened to a consistency between a syrup and a jam. The first time I made these meringues, I gently folded some of the passion fruit pulp reduction into the meringue – just enough to streak the meringue, not to blend it. They baked just fine, but the texture was a little softer than I like and I think that was because the passion fruit was introduced into the meringue too early. So I recommend first baking your plain meringues, then spooning the passion fruit pulp on top and returning the meringues to dry in the oven.
whisk the pulp in a pan to break up the juices from the seeds
reduce the pulp over medium low heat until it becomes a thick syrup
i folded the pulp into the meringue, but i think it’s better to leave the meringue plain before baking
drop spoonfuls of the meringue onto a parchment-lined baking sheet
If you do follow my advice and bake the meringues before topping them with passion fruit pulp, it helps to shape the tops of the uncooked meringues with the back of spoon to create little pockets and ledges. This surface topography will hold the passion fruit pulp better.
top with passion fruit pulp
the pulp should be dry to the touch when ready
Adding tart, tropical passion fruit to meringue transforms the meringue’s one-dimensional sugary sweetness into something magical. They balance and complement one another in the best way possible. And while these are perfectly wonderful on their own, serve a passion fruit meringue with ice cream or whipped cream to unlock your next achievement award. Boom.
mouthwateringly sweet and tart
300g (about 1 1/2 cups) superfine sugar
150g (about 5 large) egg whites, room temperature
4-6 passion fruits (about 1/2 cup of pulp)
Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the sugar evenly over the parchment. Place the egg whites in the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a balloon whisk attachment. Bake the sugar for about 8 minutes or until the edges begin melting (but not turning brown). As soon as the sugar begins to liquefy at the edges, turn the stand mixer on to its highest speed. The whites should be foamy as you remove the sugar from the oven. With oven mitts, lift the parchment paper with the sugar on it off the pan. Slowly pour the hot sugar from the parchment paper to the egg whites while the mixer is still running. It helps to angle the sugar toward the side of the bowl. If you pour the sugar onto the balloon whisk attachment, it will fling the sugar to all corners of your kitchen (and your hair). Continue to whisk the meringue on high speed until it is cool to the touch (about 10 minutes). It should be shiny, thick, and hold its shape.
Reduce the oven temperature to your lowest setting. We’re targeting 140°F – 160°F to keep the meringues white. Line another baking sheet with parchment paper. If the paper slides around on the baking sheet, you can anchor it by placing a little dot of meringue on the underside of each corner of the paper so that it sticks to the baking sheet. Spoon or pipe the meringue onto the parchment paper with an inch of space between each meringue (they will expand during baking). Bake the meringues until they are crisp on the outside and hollow sounding underneath when tapped with a wooden spoon. This took me about 4 hours for my giant meringues, but may take less time for smaller meringues, so you’ll have to keep an eye on them and test some sacrificial meringues.
While the meringues are baking, cut each passion fruit in half and scoop all of the juices and seeds into a small saucepan. Set the passion fruit pulp over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and stir until the pulp has thickened so that you can see the bottom of the pan when you stir it. Turn off the heat and let the passion fruit cool.
Remove the meringues from the oven and spoon or brush passion fruit on the tops. Don’t apply too much or the meringues will become soggy. Return the meringues to the oven. Turn off the heat. Let the meringues dry out for an hour. Remove from oven. The sauced parts of the meringues should be dry to the touch. Keep in an air-tight container or a dry place for up to 3 days. Makes 6-8 palm-sized meringues or several smaller meringues.
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