Beehive Vacherin

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This beautiful, whimsical meringue is functional; it insulates the ice cream inside, preventing it from melting rapidly.

Ingredients

Optional Decoration

  • 6 to 8 meringue bees (instructions)
  • 12 to 20 sliced almonds

Baking Equipment

Two ovens, four 12-x-15½-x-½-inch baking sheets, 16-inch pastry bag, ½-inch (#6) round decorating tip, ¼-inch (#2) round decorating tip, math compass

Method

Baking Preparations

Fit the pastry bag with the ½-inch (#6) pastry tip.

Line the four baking sheets with parchment paper to fit. Using a compass, make circles on each baking sheet as follows:

First pan ½-inch, -inch and -inch circles, side by side.

Second Pan

Second Pan two -inch circles, side by side. Inside one circle, trace a -inch circle, and inside the other, draw a -inch one.

Third Pan

Third Pan two -inch circles side by side. In one circle, draw a -inch circle, and inside the other, draw a -inch one.

Fourth Pan

Fourth Pan one circle, -inches and one circle, inches, side by side. Inside one circle, draw a -inch circle, and inside the other, draw a -inch one.

Position one rack in lower third of oven and second rack in upper third; preheat oven to 225 degrees. Repeat with other oven.

Advance Preparations

Prepare Classic Meringue. Reserve about 1 cup in a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for final assembling of beehive. (This is the adhesive for “gluing” the beehive together; refrigerating it will slow down its natural inclination to break down.)

Without delay, scoop the remaining meringue into the pastry bag. Squeeze the equivalent of a half teaspoon in a corner of each baking sheet under the parchment paper to hold it in place.

Piping the Meringue

Place the first baking sheet on the work surface. Beginning in the center of one of the -inch circles, pipe a string of meringue in a continuous, widening spiral until the outer edge reaches the traced pencil line. Lift the tip slightly to cut off the flow of meringue when completed. (This disk forms the base of the beehive.) Repeat this procedure of spiraling in the -inch circle, but overlap the strings on top of each other slightly to form a tip; this will be the top of the beehive.

The remaining circles are rings of meringue rather than solid disks. Using the circle as a guide, pipe a continuous string of meringue around another circle. Stop applying pressure on the meringue-filled pastry bag and at the same time, lift the tip slightly when you return to the starting point, to cut the flow of meringue. Repeat until all other circles have been traced with the meringue. You should have one -inch disk and 13 other rings of varying diameters, plus the top.

Making the Optional Decoration

To form the decorative bees, if using, slip the ¼-inch (#2) tip directly over the outside of the other tip, and holding it in place with the hand that guides the pastry bag, pipe six ½-inch-long ovals of meringue on one of the baking sheets. Tuck a slice of almond on each side of an oval to resemble the bee’s wings. Repeat for remaining bees.

Finally, pipe a few very small disks or ovals on a baking sheet as samples to test if beehive disk and rings are finished drying.

Baking the Meringue

Bake for 1 hour, rotating the baking sheets after 30 minutes to ensure even drying. Check one of the samples of meringue. If it releases easily from the baking sheet and after cooling for 5 minutes, appears uniformly crisp inside and out when snapped in half, the other meringues are done.

Cooling the Meringues

Remove the baking sheets from the ovens and place on racks to cool completely. (If you are making the meringues in advance, store them in airtight containers at room temperature until assembly.)

Assembling the Dessert

Preheat oven to 225 degrees; place a rack in the lowest position possible.

Two parts will be assembled to make the beehive: the base or the bowl, which will hold the scoops of ice cream, and the lid, which will form the top of the beehive.

Gently scrape any uneven areas on the rings with a small knife so the fit will be as smooth and neat as possible.

Scoop the reserved 1 cup meringue into a pastry bag fitted with the ¼-inch (#2) tip. Place the -inch meringue disk on one half of a baking sheet. (The lid portion of the beehive will be formed next to it later.) Pipe a row of small meringue dots around the edge of the disk. Place one of the -inch meringue rings upside down on top of the disk in such a way that the dots of meringue “glue” the two together. Repeat the procedure, gluing the remaining -inch rings together with dots of meringue. Make sure that each ring is layered upside down and centered as it is stacked; this will make a smoother fit of all rings together. To ensure a neat finish, press each ring down gently with your fingertips so it will adhere to the raw meringue.

Once the four -inch rings have been glued to form the base, glue the remaining rings together to form the top of the beehive. Place the -inch ring on the other half of the baking sheet. Beginning with the next smallest size and decreasing in size thereafter, glue the remaining 9 rings together with dots of meringue. Remember to press down slightly on each ring to ensure that each sticks to the other. Check your work so the beehive is aligned correctly and appears straight.

Place 3 to 5 bees at various spots on the beehive with dots of raw meringue.

Drying the Dessert

Place the two parts of the beehive (the base and its lid) in the oven and dry them for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and cool.

Serving the Dessert

A few hours before serving, place scoops of ice cream on a foil-lined baking sheet and keep on a freezer shelf until serving time.

Before serving, place the base of the beehive on a serving plate. Mound the ice cream scoops inside and top with the lid.