A sweet blend of stiffly beaten egg whites and sugar, meringue was a popular feature in many nineteenth-century desserts. In The Lady’s Receipt-Book (1847), Eliza Leslie commented, “Any very nice baked pudding will be improved by covering the surface with a meringue.” This idea of baked desserts iced with meringue increased through the next few decades. Meringue actually dates back to the sixteenth century, when European cooks first realized that whisking egg whites with birch twigs (for the lack of a better utensil) created a light, frothy mixture. It was eventually discovered that meringue hardens when baked at a low temperature (or simply left out in the air to dry), changing the texture to one that is pleasantly airy and crispy.
as per nineteenth century recipes for meringues de pomme, peeled and cored apples were sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and baked until tender. They were then either transferred to a baked pie shell or simply left in the baking dish. The cored centers were filled with orange marmalade and sometimes crushed macaroons. The entire top of the pie was covered with meringue and popped back into the oven until browned. The cookbook The Philadelphia Housewife (1855) cleverly recommended swirling a peak of meringue over each apple to serve as a guide when serving the pie.
To recreate this delicious dessert, I combined recipes from Miss Leslie's The Lady’s Receipt-Book (1847) and the Cooking School Text Book (1878) by Juliet Corson. The result was luscious and stunning.
Apples (about 6 large - depends on how many will fit in your baking dish)
4 egg whites, at room temperature
8 tablespoons powdered sugar
Tablespoon rose-water for flavoring (optional).
1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Peel and core the apples and stand them up in a deep baking dish. Pour just enough water into the bottom of the dish to prevent them from burning. Fill each core with a little sugar, a pat of butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Bake them until just tender, about 30-40 minutes.
3. Take them out and drain off any juice. When cool, fill the cores with thick marmalade or jelly (I used plum preserves).
4. Whisk the egg whites to a stiff firm froth, then gradually beat in the sugar, a spoonful at a time, then add the rose-water if using. Cover the apples with the meringue, beginning at the top of each apple and then spreading it down evenly with a broad-bladed knife dipped frequently into a bowl of cold water. The meringue must be spread on very smoothly and of equal thickness all over.
5. Set the dish in a cool oven, and as soon as the meringue is hardened, take it out.