For the crisp meringues: The egg whites perform best at room temperature. Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of an electric mixer with whisk attachment. Whip the egg whites until frothy, then continue to beat while slowly adding all of the baker's sugar over the course of 1 minute. Add the salt, vanilla bean scrapings and whip until incorporated.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip with the meringue and pipe into 8 (2-inch) filled-in discs on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 200 degrees F degree oven for 1 hour and turn oven off, leaving the meringue disks in the oven overnight to dry out.
For the soft Italian meringue: Combine the baker's sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring the sugar syrup to a boil. When the sugar syrup starts to boil, begin whipping the egg whites in an electric mixer. When the syrup reaches 222 degrees F on a sugar thermometer, remove the mixture from the heat and slowly pour into the egg whites. Continue to whip until stiff peaks form.
To assemble: Heat the broiler. Scoop 1 to 2 ounces of your favorite sorbet or ice cream on a disk of crisp meringue. Using a small spatula or the back of a spoon, smooth some of the soft meringue around the sorbet or ice cream to completely cover it. Repeat for all 8 meringue disks. Lightly brown the meringue by putting under broiler for approximately 1 minute or using a small chef's blowtorch. Serve immediately or return to the freezer to serve later. Can be assembled and frozen for 2 to 4 hours before serving.
Recipe courtesy of Elizabeth Falkner