It’s strawberry season! Strawberries in the Puyallup Valley are something special. They are the sweetest, most intensely strawberry strawberries that you can get anywhere. They’re just fabulous. You can wash them and cap them and eat them on the day that they’re picked.

Or you can make a strawberry salad. Or stir fry strawberries with snow peas and scallops. (Seriously. That’s one amazing dish.)

But if you’ve got an abundance of strawberries, you’re probably thinking of dessert.

Strawberry shortcake.

Strawberries with Devonshire cream.

Strawberry-rhubarb pie.

Strawberries over vanilla ice cream.

But I’m supposed to be gluten free and dairy free now, so what can I do with the berries?

What about making little meringues to replace the shortcake, smothering the shortcake with cut up berries, and drizzling creme anglaise over the top?

Yum.

Meringue cups with strawberries and creme anglaise

You’ll need 5 egg whites for the meringue, and 5 egg yolks for the creme anglaise. It’s easiest to separate the eggs while they’re cold. After you separate them, let them come to room temperature before you begin.

While the eggs are coming to room temperature, prepare your fruit. Wash your strawberries, cap them, slice them, and sugar them lightly. Or use fresh whole raspberries. Or sliced peaches. Whatever you have that suits your fancy. Put the fruit in the refrigerator to rest while you make the meringue and creme anglaise.

Meringue Ingredients

5 egg whites, room temperature
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Meringue Instructions

The recipe will make about 15 – 18 meringue cups, depending on exactly how large you make them. Because I have a double oven, I can easily put three baking sheets in the oven at the same time. So I use three baking sheets, and put five or six meringues on each sheet. Because the meringues don’t spread, you can put them closer together than I do. If you can only put two pans in the oven at a time, use two baking sheets, and put 8 meringue cups on each sheet. Keep them at least an inch apart.

Use insulated baking sheets if you have them. It makes a difference. Cover the baking sheets with parchment paper.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.

Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites at medium low until they are frothy and beginning to become opaque. Add the cream of tartar, then increase the speed to medium high. Continue beating until the egg whites are thick and white, with the consistency of shaving cream. Slowly add the sugar and vanilla, beating until everything is incorporated.

Use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to scoop up the meringue, overfilling the cup slightly. Dump the meringue in a blob on the baking sheet. Continue until you have filled a pan. Then use a teaspoon to press down gently on the middle of each blob and push the meringue toward the edges so that the meringue blobs end up shaped like little nests.

When you have filled all of your pans, put them in the oven and close the oven door.

Bake for 90 minutes. When done, the meringues should be firm, smooth, and dry. Turn off the oven and let the meringues cool in the oven for several hours. Once they’re completely cool, you can store them in an airtight container or a Ziploc bag.

A meringue cup on a plate, ready for strawberries and creme anglaise.

I didn’t get a picture of the assembled desserts. But here’s what a completed meringue cup looks like, before you add the strawberries and creme anglaise.

Creme Anglaise Ingredients

1 can coconut milk
1 tsp vanilla
5 egg yolks, room temperature
¼ cup sugar
Pinch salt

Creme Anglaise Instructions

Set up an ice water bath – set a medium bowl in a large bowl or pan of ice water. Set a fine mesh strainer over the bowl. You’ll need this later, but you want to set it up now.

Put the coconut milk and the vanilla in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat until it’s steaming.

While it’s heating, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, and salt together in a medium bowl until they’re thoroughly blended and light.

Slowly drizzle the hot milk into the eggs, whisking constantly. When it’s completely combined, return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.

When the mixture thickens slightly and reaches 175 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, it’s done. Pour the mixture through the strainer into the bowl in the ice water bath. Let it cool.

When the creme is mostly cool, pour it into an airtight container. Press a piece of plastic wrap flush against the surface of the creme to keep a skin from forming. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Assembling the meringue cups with strawberries and creme anglaise

Put a meringue on a small plate. Spoon a generous amount of strawberries over the meringue. Drizzle with creme anglaise.

Serve immediately.

Yes, this is unbelievably good.

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Charlotte Riggle, author of Catherine's Pascha and The Saint Nicholas Day Snow
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