If these aren't the dreams of childhood sweets I don't know what are. These little whimsical treats remind me of something served in a fairytale of sorts, Alice having these with the White Rabbit and Mad Hatter at the tea party, possibly the White Witch of Narnia tempting one of the daughters of Eve or sons of Adam with pretty little bites. I do know that when I placed a plate of cherry topped meringues in front of my sweet boys their smiles grew even bigger and their eyes lit up with a bit more sparkle. Then the giggles ensued with the crunch of the meringue and the creme fraiche mustaches that remained on their upper lip. Any treat one can make that kindles laugher and silliness is logged as a keeper in my book.
All whimsy aside, these really are delicious. I loved the sweetness of the swiss meringue tempered by the smooth, slightly tart creme fraiche, the cherry on top is, well.......the cherry on top! In the preparation of these morsels I would bake the meringue a day ahead of time (or even a few), and keep them in an airtight container at room temperature, then pipe the creme fraiche in right before serving. If you're not a fan of creme friache or can't get your hands on some, whip up some whipping cream and pipe that in. They will not keep and get soft after a bit, save the last step until you're getting close to serving them.
These fanciful treats could be served at any occasion and you could adjust the fruit topping seasonally, although I feel you really don't need an occasion to make these lovelies, a "just because" is good enough reason.
Adapted from The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook
Swiss Meringue , recipe to follow
3/4 cup creme fraiche or heavy whip cream
1 pound cherries, pitted
Confectioners sugar for dusting
4 large egg whites, room temperature
1 cup sugar
pinch cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Fill a medium saucepan one quarter full with water. Set the saucepan over medium heat, and bring water to a simmer.
Combine egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in a heat proof bowl of an electric mixer; place over saucepan. Whisk constantly until the sugar is dissolved and the whites are warm to the touch, 3 to 3 1/2 minutes. Test by rubbing mixture between your fingers to ensure that no sugar remains.
Attach the bowl to the electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat, starting on low speed and gradually increasing to high until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 10 minutes. Add the vanilla and mix until combined. Use the meringue according to recipe instructions.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a 1 1/2 inch cookie cutter, draw 25 circles on each piece of parchment. Turn the paper over and place on the sheets. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 200F with two racks centered. Fit a pastry bag with a Wilton #16 star tip or other small star tip, and fill the bag with the meringue. Cover one of the circles with an even layer of meringue. Pipe around the circumference, making a 1 inch high cup. Repeat the piping over the remaining circles. Transfer the baking sheets to the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 175F, and bake until the meringue has dried but is still white, 45 minutes more. Transfer the sheets to a wire rack to cool.
Fit a pastry bag with a plain round tip, and fill the bag with the creme fraiche. Pipe about 2 teaspoons creme fraiche into each of the meringue cups until almost full, and top with a cherry. Dust the meringue bites with confectioners' sugar, and serve.