Brambles and hazelnuts give this summer dessert an autumnal twist
I've always shied away from making meringues - memories of sloppy, unwhisked egg white seeping out from under stiff peaks haunt me. But I've now come to realise that they are incredibly easy - especially thanks to the KitchenAid mixer, but also with any decent whisk. And hopefully this recipe will prove to you just how easy it is, too.
Ingredients - serves 8
4 eggs whites
150g caster sugar
100g soft light brown sugar
1tsp cream of tartare
100g packet chopped hazelnuts
250ml whipping cream
2tbsp blackberry jam
Start by making the meringue. You can do this the day before the dessert is to be served, and in fact the only downside to this pudding is that it needs a bit of forethought and cooling-in-the-oven time. Still, perservere... Carefully separate four eggs and reserve the yolks for something else (like a custard or spaghetti carbonara). Whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks and then continue to whisk as you add in the sugar a spoonful at a time. I mixed the brown and white sugars together, but you don't have to. Also, if you have unrefined caster sugar, you can use 250g of that rather than the mix. Once the mixture is glossy, test a little bit between your fingers to check that you can no longer feel any grains of sugar. At this point, whisk in the teaspoon of cream of tartare. I think you can use white wine vinegar or lemon juice here too - it's just a case of adding a small amount of acid to the mix to do something to the egg proteins, which in turn will give you that nice chewy texture inside your perfectly crispy meringue.
Add in a few table spoons worth of the chopped hazelnuts and carefully fold them in with a spatula. Then artfully tip the mixture onto a baking sheet. You could get all sophisticated and use a piping bag to create a really smart finish, but I think the rustic look is nice. The meringue should hold its shape really well at this point and allow you to form raised sides and a lower middle. This will be the well in which you end up piling in the whipped cream.
Sprinkle on some more chopped nuts and then put the meringue in a cool oven - about 120C - for an hour. After the hour, turn the oven off, leaving the meringue in the oven until it's cool.
At this point, you can remove the meringue from the oven and store it until needed. I just draped a clean tea towel over it and left it on the kitchen table overnight as it's autumn and not too hot at the moment (and we don't have a dog who might nose its way under the tea towel). Once you're ready to serve, whip the cream until stiff peaks form, but don't over whip - light and fluffy is lovely. Carefully spread some bramble jam, if you have it, in the well of the meringue, then dollop the cream on top and pile the fruit on top of that. I should have bought double, if not triple, the amount of fruit I did for this one - so that's worth bearing in mind. Serve with a blackberry coulis and an extra sprinkle of hazelnuts.
You can use any autumn fruits you like - blueberries, redcurrants, raspberries etc And it would be extra indulgent to serve it with a dark chocolate sauce, or perhaps add some cocoa powder to the meringue mix. The brown sugar is optional, I just think it creates a lovely golden meringue.
We ate this with a delicious sauterne - heaven.