Since my recent trip to Lille, I have been obsessed with making Merveilleux at home. These meringue and chocolate cream sandwich pastries are a famous specialty from French and Belgian Flanders and can be spotted across bakeries and pastry shops all over the city of Lille. I actually spent several minutes staring at pastry chefs crafting them through the windows of Aux Merveilleux de Fred, one of the most famous spots in the city to buy and eat Merveilleux.
So as soon as I was back in my kitchen in Canada, I started to study and compare recipes for it, recalled my memories from Lille, and developed this recipe for making easy Merveilleux at home – which includes small crisp meringue circles with the simplest chocolate cream and chocolate shavings. A simple recipe taken step-by-step to make these authentic, mouth-watering pastries from Flanders.
The story goes, the original name of this pastry was “tête-de-nègre”- meaning, in a very politically incorrect manner, “negro head”. For obvious reasons, this inappropriate name is now avoided and replaced by “Arlequin”, “Boule Choco”, or more commonly “Merveilleux” (meaning, “marvellous” in French).
Also very famous in Belgium, the typical Merveilleux is made of meringues covered in plain whipped cream, surrounded with chocolate shards and topped with a Maraschino cherry. The French variation (the one we’re doing here) is covered in chocolate cream and covered entirely with chocolate shards (and no cherry) – which makes it my personal favorite (more chocolate, and no Marashino cherry – which I am not fond of).
A Merveilleux is a flawless marriage of textures: crispy-melt-in-your-mouth meringues wrapped in fluffy chocolate cream and covered in crunchy chocolate shards.
Another thing I love about them (and why they’re so great to make at home): Merveilleux don’t need to look perfect – in fact, they should look rather rustic with a rocky surface and messy chocolate shards all over. So you don’t need to stress about your pastries being uniform and perfect. I actually think they look better when they are all unique (as long as the core components are present: two sandwiched meringues with chocolate cream).
I think they are great served in cupcake liners (they make for great hand-held desserts) or you can serve them on a plate, with a fork or a spoon. But beware, they get scrumptiously messy when eaten!
Cooking notes :
- Tips for the meringues: The use of an electric beater is strongly recommended (faster and much less tiring than by hand). Take the eggs out of the fridge at least 15 minutes before you start working with them. Make sure absolutely no egg yolk is left in the whites. Beat the whites all the way to a firm peak before you start adding the sugar.
- Tips for the chocolate shards: Use a good-quality dark or unsweetened chocolate (milk chocolate tends to melt easier and will not hold a good shape as shards). Do not rush the melting process, take it slow or the chocolate will separate.
- Tips for the whipped cream: Place the bowl and whisk(s) in the freezer 30 minutes before you start making the whipped cream.
- When all 3 of your components (meringues, chocolate shards and whipped cream) are ready to be assembled, work quickly to assemble them and place all the Merveilleux in the fridge as you go, before serving.
For the meringues (makes 24 small meringues):
½ tsp salt
4 egg whites
1 1/4 cup (250g) sugar
For the chocolate shards:
200g dark (70%) or unsweetened chocolate, melted
For the chocolate whipped cream:
1 ¾ cup (400ml) whipping cream(35%MF)
200g unsweetened chocolate, melted
Step 1 – Make the meringues (you can make them the day before, and keep them in an airtight container). Take the eggs out of the fridge at least 15 minutes before you start working with them. Pre-heat your oven to 250F (120C) and prepare two baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, beat together the salt and egg whites to a firm peak. Keep beating and slowly sprinkle in the sugar, in 3 additions, until sugar dissolves (the peaks should still be stiff).
Transfer to a large piping bag fitted with a large star nozzle. Form rows of 1 ½ inch-circles (3.75cm) of meringues onto lined baking sheets, leaving a 1 inch space between them. Bake for 1 hour, or until the meringues are dry and peel off easily from the parchment paper. Turn the oven off, and leave to cool (in the oven) for 30 extra minutes. Unpeel all the meringues from the parchment paper and set aside.
Step 2 – Make the chocolate shards. Gently melt the chocolate over a bain-marie or in a microwave (stopping and stirring every 20 seconds).
Place a large sheet of foil (at least 16 inches long) onto a large baking sheet or large cutting board. Pour the melted chocolate all over and spread it out to a very thin layer (as thin as you can) using an offset spatula, leaving an ½ inch (1.25cm) border all around. Chill for 2 hours.
To make shards, unpeel the chocolate layer from the sheet of foil and break it into tiny pieces. Transfer to a plate and chill until you need them.
Step 3 – Make the chocolate whipped cream. Place the bowl and whisk(s) in the freezer 30 minutes before you start making the whipped cream. Gently melt the chocolate over bain-marie or in a microwave (stopping and stirring every 20 seconds). Whisk the cream to a medium-firm peak and slowly pour in the melted chocolate. Whisk until the chocolate is just incorporated and the cream is light-brown and fluffy.
Step 4 – Assemble the Merveilleux. Grab 2 small meringues; drop a large dollop of chocolate whipped cream on top of one and sandwich with the other meringue (face down). Using a spoon or offset spatula, spread more cream on the outside and the top of the sandwiched meringues to cover them all over (leave the bottom cream-free). Sprinkle and roll in chocolate shards.
Place in a cupcake liner or onto a serving plate, and chill before serving. Repeat to build the other Merveilleux. If the chocolate whipped cream softens after a while, place it in the fridge for 15 minutes.
Merveilleux are best eaten within 1 hour after assembling (the meringues tend to soften quickly once covered with cream).
If you try this Merveilleux (Meringue and Chocolate Cream Sandwich Pastries) recipe, let me know! Leave a comment or share a photo on Instagram tagging @pardonyourfrench or using #pardonyourfrench. I’d love to see what you come up with.
The base recipe for the meringues is adapted from Ricardo.