Tuesday, May 20, 2014

TWD: Baking with Julia - Tropical Napoleons

Our recipe for Tuesday's with Dorie this week is Tropical Napoleons.  I just have to say, "YUM" to this recipe!  It is light and fresh and feels super healthy even though it does contain meringues and whipped cream.  And we used a fun technique for the meringues, so that is always fun.

You might be looking at the picture and saying,  "what meringues?"  See, the thin layers between the fruit ARE the meringues.  I always thought that meringues were puffy things, but not this time!  This time they are wafer thin!  They contain the usual meringue ingredients, i.e. beaten egg whites and sugar, but less sugar than a typical puffy meringue.  These also include some sweetened flaked coconut, to add to the "tropical" part of the recipe.  Once you have the meringue ingredients together, you make a little template to help make these thin circles.  The template is made from a plastic lid.  The author of the recipe, Charlotte Akoto, suggests using a large sour cream or yogurt lid, but I didn't have one of those at the time.  Instead, I used the plastic lid from a spinach box container. 

First, you trace something that is about 4 inches in diameter on your piece of plastic.  Look in your pantry and grab a big can of tomatoes or something like that.  Trace around it with a marker and carefully cut around that line, and then cut about an inch or so around that circle, leaving a tab at the bottom so you can hold it in your hand.  This next picture shows the tab better:

If you look closely, you can sort of see the tab poking up at the bottom left corner.  It is tricky, since this plastic is clear!  Anyway, you gently spread a thin layer of meringue on a BUTTERED AND FLOURED baking sheet, filling your little circular template.  Peel the template away and you have a perfect (mostly) circle of meringue!

According to Ms.Akoto, the meringues should cook for about 5-7 minutes and start to turn lightly golden.  I found that it took MUCH longer than that.  Regardless, when they came out of the oven they were thin, light wafers.  I used a thin, metal spatula to immediately wiggle underneath each one and place it on a parchment-covered pan to cool.  These are supposed to be fine to keep air-tight until use.  I found that mine became a bit sticky, so I popped them back into the oven for a few more minutes before plating the dessert.  I made the meringues in the morning and served them in the evening, so there was a time lapse there.  And I live in Houston, where it is already humid and summer-like, so it is possible that others in a non-humid climate will not have this problem! 

The rest of the recipe is simple.  You slice up whatever fruit you intend to use and make the whipped cream.  And OH GOODNESS this whipped cream!  It includes vanilla and DARK RUM, something I have never put in my whipped cream before.  WHY NOT?  It is heavenly.  I was seriously missing out on something amazing by NOT adding rum to whipped cream.  Note to self:  whipped cream + rum = delight! 

Each little napoleon includes the following layers: 
  • a small blob of whipped cream deliciousness to hold down a meringue
  • meringue
  • amazing whipped cream
  • fruit of your choice
  • meringue
  • whipped cream
  • fruit
  • meringue
  • whipped cream
  • small bit of fruit
Are you salivating yet?  You should be!  Here is the recipe so you can make them too!

Tropical Napoleons
adapted from Baking with Julia
serves 6

The Wafers
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
pinch of salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/4 cup sesame seeds

Move oven racks to divide the oven into thirds, and preheat to 325F.  Butter and flour 3 baking sheets, and line a sheet pan with parchment.  I buttered and floured a piece of parchment and put that on the baking sheets - less clean up! 

Prepare a circular template:  Trace a 4-inch circle into the center of a plastic lid from a large container of yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese, greens, etc.  Cut approximately 1-inch around the circle you made, including a tab from the edge of the container lid.  Now carefully cut the inside of the circle, on the line you traced.  Make sure you cut all of the marker part away and do not cut through the side of your ring. 

Make sure the bowl of your electric mixer is very clean - any greasy residue will make for poor meringues.  You can wipe it down with white vinegar to make sure it is nice and clean.  Put the egg whites and salt into the bowl, and whip with the whisk attachment for about 3 minutes, or until they hold medium-soft peaks.  Leave the mixer running, and slowly add 3/4 of the sugar.  Continue to beat until the peaks are shiny and firm, about 4 minutes.  Add the remaining sugar and beat for 2 more minutes.  Using a rubber spatula, gently fold 1/2 cup of the coconut flakes into the meringue.

Place your handy template onto one of the floured/buttered pans and spread a thin layer of meringue into the center.  It helps to use a thin, offset spatula.  Lift the template and continue making meringue circles on the pan.  You can place them close together, as they will not spread.  Sprinkle the meringues with the remaining coconut flakes and the sesame seeds.

Bake at 325F for 5-7 minutes (according to the recipe, but closer to 10+ minutes for me).  Check frequently, as they can go from golden to burned quickly.  Remove them from the oven as soon as they start to color.  Immediately remove them from the baking pans by wiggling a thin spatula under the edges, keeping the meringue wafers flat as you do this.  Transfer the wafers to the parchment-lined sheet pan too You can stack the cooled wafers between layers of parchment in an airtight container for a day or two, keeping them at room temperature.  If they get sticky, put them back into the oven for a few minutes to crisp up!

The Cream
1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum
3/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 1/2 tablespoons sifted powdered sugar

1 1/2 cups (approx.) assorted fresh berries and small slices of tropical fruit, such as mango or kiwi, for layering

Whip the cream in a chilled bowl, using with chilled beaters, until the cream holds soft peaks.  Add the rum and vanilla and beat until the peaks are firm.  Fold in the powdered sugar using a rubber spatula. 

Constructing the Napoleon
Place the whipped cream into a pastry bag with a star tip, or just use a spoon.  Place a dot of cream in the center of each of 6 dessert plates and gently press a meringue on top.  The cream acts as glue so the napoleon will not go sliding off of the plate!  Spoon or pipe some whipped cream on the meringue and arrange fruit over the cream.  Top with another wafer,  more cream, and more fruit, and then another wafer.  You can either dust this top meringue with powdered sugar or place more cream atop this last wafer finish with a small dab of fruit.  Serve immediately.
Printable Recipe

This is a really beautiful dessert that takes a tiny bit of patience for a really fresh and delicious result.  We served these at a dinner party to rave reviews!  If only I could bring some more tropical things to my life... like the beach, the ocean, a nice hammock, a cabana boy bringing me a pretty drink with an umbrella...   I dream large, I know.  For now, I'll settle for this dessert and the brilliance of adding dark rum to whipped cream. That is a fantastic treat in itself!

To see what others thought of this dessert, head to the TWD blog and click on "LYL: Tropical Napoleons".  You'll find links to the other blog posts there!


  1. beautiful. I think I'm inspired to try these -- before it gets too humid in the northeast!

  2. I agree--where is that cabana boy? Glad you liked the napoleons and that you discovered rum whipped cream!

  3. I am with you on getting more tropical things into our life. Wasn't the rum such a great addition to the whipped cream?! Glad to hear that all your guests had enjoyed the napoleons.

  4. I loved the whipped cream too- so simple of an addition!

  5. I am impressed that you made these so thin! Lovely job


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