This is my first By The Book feature, from David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen. I will write more about the book on Wednesday, when I feature another recipe from the book. But today, my heart is heavy and my thoughts are with my dear friend, whose son, H, is in the hospital right now. H just turned seven months old yesterday, and he is an adorable, chubby, bouncy, chatty baby.
A couple days ago, H suffered a large stroke. At first, my friend took him in to the hospital because H had hit his head and then began vomiting and was very fatigued. She thought it may have been a concussion. His initial head scan came back normal, but after she noticed that his right side was not moving normally and the right side of his face was a little droopy, they did an MRI, which revealed that he had had a stroke. He likely fell over as a result of the stroke.
Our mutual best friend, Daryian, called to fill me in on all of this, and I was in shock. I didn’t even know that pediatric stroke was a thing. I spent the next few hours reading about it. The good thing is that my friend caught it early and took her son to the hospital as soon as she saw symptoms. Sometimes the symptoms can go unnoticed for a long period of time and the effects of the stroke won’t reveal themselves until later in the child’s development. An infant’s brain is still growing, so it is better able to recover from a stroke than an adult’s, but there still may be complications that won’t be evident for years. Right now, H is undergoing lots of tests to discover what caused the stroke. We are fortunate to live in a city with one of the best children’s hospitals in the country, and he is surrounded by a team of experts who will aid in his therapy going forward.
I haven’t been able to visit H because he is in the ICU right now, but I have heard that he is pretty frustrated with all the poking and prodding and the fact that he is not allowed to sit up or breastfeed right now. But he is getting stronger and even “talking” a little. I wish that I had the ability to make all of this go away for both him and his mother. I am a problem-solver and like to help people, and the fact that I am completely powerless to do anything is extremely difficult. I have been trying to do what I can by bringing food (I’m a feeder), letting Daryian crash on my couch so she can be close to the hospital (I live nearby), setting up a support page on Facebook, and coordinating a meal train. Nothing feels like enough.
I finished making these merveilleux after my first visit to the hospital and brought some back in the afternoon for both friends, with sandwiches from a local restaurant. Daryian didn’t get a chance to eat the merveilleux I brought for her, so she had one from the fridge (along with the bourbon I left out for her) last night after I had gone to bed. I woke up to her proclaiming it as “the most delicious dessert I’ve ever had ever in history.” She is an extremely picky dessert-eater, so I felt somewhat heartened that my baking brought some joy to someone in this difficult time. I sent the remaining merveilleux to the hospital with her.
H is only about a month and a half older than Nolan, so this is really hitting home for me. I have been hugging my husband and my son extra tight the last few days. I can only begin to imagine what H’s mom is going through, but I do know that receiving well-wishes, positive vibes, prayers, love, and support is helping her, so please leave me a comment with any words of encouragement so that I can pass them along to her. If you want to help in some other way (sending a meal or a gift), please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- ½ cup (120 grams/125 mL) egg whites, at room temperature (from about 4 large eggs)
- pinch of kosher salt
- 1 cup (140 grams) confectioners' sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon cider vinegar (or white vinegar)
- 2½ cups (625 mL) cold heavy cream
- ⅔ cup (90 grams) confectioners' sugar
- 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ⅓ cup (80 grams) crème fraîche
- 10 ounces (285 grams) dark chocolate, coarsely grated*
- Set oven racks to upper and lower thirds of the oven. Preheat oven to 275°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites on medium speed until they are frothy. Add the salt, turn the mixer to high speed, and beat until soft peaks form. Lower the speed and add the powdered sugar in three batches, scraping down the sides of the bowl if necessary. Add the vanilla and vinegar. Return the mixer speed to high and whip until egg whites are stiff and glossy.
- Load the meringue into a piping bag fitted with a large round tip. Pipe ten 2-inch wide and 1-inch tall mounds onto each baking sheet, spacing them evenly. Try to avoid tall peaks on the meringue mounds (swipe them off with your finger if you need to).
- Bake the meringues for 1 hour, then turn off the oven and let them dry in the oven as the oven cools down, 1½-2 hours. When they are cool and crisp, assemble immediately or store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the cream until it begins to hold its shape. Gradually add the powdered sugar, then the espresso powder and vanilla extract. Beat at medium-high speed until very stiff, but before it looks curdled and grainy** (a spoon inserted into the whipped cream should be able to stand up without falling). Add the crème fraîche and beat until just combined.
- Flatten 10 paper muffin cups on a baking sheet. Place grated/chopped chocolate onto a large dish or a cutting board.
- Spread about 1-inch of the whipped cream on ten of the meringues. Place another comparably-sized meringue on top, squishing slightly to create a "sandwich." Use an offset spatula to spread more whipped cream over the sides and top of the meringue sandwich. I found it easiest to put a large dollop of whipped cream on top of the meringue sandwich, and work it down the sides as I held the bottom meringue with two fingers. If your meringues are sliding around too much to do the outside coat, you can chill the meringue sandwiches in the refrigerator to firm the filling up and make them easier to handle.
- Gently but quickly roll each cake in the chocolate, then dip the top in the chocolate to fully cover all the whipped cream. Use a small spatula or a spoon to transfer each completed merveilleux to a flattened paper cup.
- Refrigerate the merveilleux for at least 1 hour, then serve chilled.
- *I only used about 8 ounces of chocolate. I heated my chocolate block slightly in the microwave so it was warm, but NOT melted, then grated it on the large side of a box grater. You could also just finely chop the chocolate.
- **If you accidentally overwhip your cream, you can add more cold heavy cream, a tablespoon or two at a time, until it is creamy again.