Le merveilleux – which means marvelous or wonderful in French – consists of two small meringue discs sandwiched together with whipped cream, coated in more cream, and rolled in chocolate shavings. A candied cherry sometimes decorates the pastry. They can look rather large, but they are feather-light in reality – with a slight meringue crunch before completely melting in your mouth. It's like eating a cloud.
This dessert originated in Walloon, Belgium but today is available throughout Europe in a wide range of flavors.
For a more detailed description and explanation on the history of merveilleux and how to make this recipe, please see myblog postfrom 10 October, 2021.
Preparation time 2½ hours (including decorating time) Bake time 60 minutes (plus cooling time) Makes 20 pastries
For meringue discs
120 grams (about 4) egg whites
pinch of salt
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
150 grams (1¼ cup) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
For whipped cream coating/filling
600 milliliters (2½ cup) cold heavy cream
60 grams (½ cup) confections’ sugar
75 grams (2.6 ounces) mascarpone cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
200 grams (7 ounces) chocolate shavings or other topping of choice – see note below about making your own chocolate shavings
Preheat oven to 120C (250F) and place rack in the center of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Do not grease the parchment paper.
Measure your ingredients.
In a large bowl, place the egg whites, cream of tartar and salt and whip on low speed until the beginning stages of soft peaks. Increase speed to medium-high, slowly and gradually sprinkling in the sugar. Whip for a couple of minutes and then slowly pour in the vanilla. Increase speed to high and whip until glossy, stiff peaks form.
Transfer the mixture to a large piping bag fitted with a large star tip (I used Ateco star tip #6).
Pipe about 40 small rosettes to form rows of meringue circles, about 3.8cm/1.5in in diameter, onto the lined baking sheets, making sure that they are sufficiently spaced apart.
Bake for 1 hour or until the meringue rosettes are crisp and dry. Turn the oven off, leave the door slightly ajar, and let the meringue cool completely in the oven. Once cool, unpeel all the meringues from the parchment paper and set aside. The meringue can be made several days in advance and stored in an airtight container at room temperature.
When ready to assemble, make the filling/coating. Whip cold heavy cream, mascarpone, sugar, and vanilla together until stiff peaks form.
Working quickly, take 2 meringue discs and dollop cream on top of one and sandwich with the other meringue (face down). Repeat with the remaining meringue discs.
Using a spoon or offset spatula, spread an even layer of cream on the outside and the top of the sandwiched meringues to cover them all over but do not coat the bottom with cream. Merveilleux are a little tricky to assembly as they are very delicate. If your kitchen is too warm, the cream will be difficult to use; you may need to refrigerate the cream periodically while assembling the pastries.
Place cream covered meringues on a parchment line baking dish and in the freezer for a few minutes before rolling them in the chocolate shavings or another topping. Do not skip this step.
Holding each chilled merveilleux between your thumb and index finger, roll the top and sides (avoid coating the bottom) in chocolate shards or another topping. [Itopped half of my merveilleux with chocolate shavings (100 grams/3.5 ounces) and the other half with finely ground candied pecans (100 grams/3.5 ounces or ¾ cup). If you have any meringue discs leftover, you can grind them up and roll the merveilleux in the meringue powder.]
Place merveilleux in cupcake liners or onto a serving plate, and chill for 15 minutes before serving. The final pastry is about 5cm or 2in in diameter.
Traditionally merveilleux are eaten within an hour or two of assembling, while the meringue is still crisp. Although the meringue becomes softened by the cream over time, they are still delicious the next day. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Note: To make your own chocolate shavings, refrigerate a chocolate bar (I used one with 65% cacao) for 15 minutes and then use a cheese grater or vegetable peeler to grate the chocolate. Alternatively, scrape a chocolate bar with a large knife. Place the bar on the work surface, tightly against you so that it is well secured. Holding the knife straight, scrape the surface of the bar with the blade. Place chocolate shavings in a shallow dish or bowl.