My sister the cook (not to be confused with my sister the research librarian) and I were reminiscing about Milwaukee the other day. We grew up there, third-generation locals on my dad's side. In those long-ago days, Milwaukee was largely German and Polish. One of Dad's favorite restaurants was Boder's in the small town of Mequon, Wis., just north of the city.
Dad had gone to high school with (and had dated) the owner at the time, Dolly, who ran the place with her husband, Jack, who'd inherited the place from his father. Eating there was like going to a friend's house for a meal -- a German-influenced meal, that is. Which is not to say the food wasn't first-rate because it was, from fresh-caught trout and whitefish (it was on the Milwaukee River) to more traditional German dishes (veal Oscar and duck with cherries).
I had a sweet tooth back then (still do) and so would order some dish I couldn't or wouldn't finish in order to save room for one of Boder's delicious desserts. Among the highlights was schaum torte with strawberries.
If you're from Wisconsin, you're probably familiar with schaum torte, which is really a meringue shell. Pavlova is one variation. The best part of schaum torte is what you put inside it, like sweetened berries and whipped cream. Well, there's also the fact that although it has sugar and it has no fat: my kind of dessert.
This year, my sister had some leftover egg whites (who knows why?) and I happened to have the insides of a pumpkin I'd carved. Clever sis got the clever idea of creating a Halloween version of a schaum torte that we could fill with fall fruit compote. Canned pumpkin works just as well and it makes a great alternative or addition to apple or pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving.
Don't be afraid of the vinegar in the recipe; it actually makes the meringue a bit chewier, as opposed to dry and brittle.
Yield: About a dozen
Unfilled shells may be frozen.
- ½ cup (approximately 4-6 eggs) egg whites at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vinegar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups sugar
- ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- ½ cup cooked pumpkin puréed (not pie filling)
- Preheat oven to 275°.
- Beat egg whites in metal or ceramic bowl (not plastic) until very stiff; add vinegar and vanilla. While mixer runs, add sugar very gradually until all has been added. Continue beating until mixture is well blended and egg whites again form stiff peaks. Reduce speed to medium and beat 1 minute.
- Place the pumpkin purée and spice in a small bowl. Fold in 1/3 of the egg white mixture to lighten the pumpkin. Pour back into the whipped mixture and gently fold in. Be very gentle so that you don't deflate the egg whites. This batter should stand up to a spoon and not be at all runny.
- Grease 2 cookie sheets and place large spoonfuls of the stiff batter close together to form large circles about the size of a fruit cup.
- Bake in preheated oven 1 hour. Turn oven off and let cool completely before opening the door.
- Remove carefully with a spatula. The shells will crack a bit allowing plenty of room for the compote or ice cream or both!
Fall Fruit Compote
Yield: 1½ cups
- 2 large apples (Cortland, Fuji, Empire, Granny Smith)
- 2-3 ripe pears (any good-size pear will do)
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- ½ cup fresh or frozen whole cranberries
- ¼ cup water
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon/pumpkin pie spice
- ¼ cup sugar
- Peel and core the fruit, and dice into small pieces (the pears should be in larger pieces than the apples). Toss apple and pear pieces with lemon juice.
- In a medium saucepan over high heat bring sugar, vanilla, spices and water to a boil. Add all fruit, stir, and bring back to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low.
- Allow fruit to simmer for 20 minutes until soft. Use a potato masher or similar tool to mash up the fruit so it all blends together but still remains chunky.
- Cool thoroughly and refrigerate. Will thicken slightly. Just before serving, fill each shell with vanilla or pumpkin ice cream and the compote.
- Top with whipped cream and/or candied pecans.