Tag Archives: meringues

je brunch, tu brunch: sweet

23 Sep

brunch sweet 2

(Following on from je brunch, tu brunch: savoury)

For sweet teeth, two cakes to start with: a round chocolate and a square upside-down pear and pecan (from Diana Henry). Both rich and full of flavour, stand-alone cakes – no need for icing or frills.

When cooking for a crowd in a miniature oven, it is best to choose at least one simple recipe that you know off by heart, that you can mix together in five minutes and have in the oven straightaway while you read and measure the next, new recipe. Then you have time to slice pears and caramelise them, and to whip up a fluffy buttermilk sponge.

My chocolate fondant recipe is a piece of cake (ha) and so decadent it tastes like a lot of effort went into it: Melt 200g chocolate and 200g butter over a bain marie. Whisk 170g sugar and 5 eggs in a large bowl. Stir in chocolate mix and 125g ground nuts (hazelnuts are nice). Pour into a 22cm greased and papered tin, bake for 25 minutes at 175C until just starting to crack, not wobbly but still soft. Optional extras: orange zest, cinnamon, 2 tsp instant coffee dissolved in 1 tbsp boiling water. Slice very finely and decorate with icing sugar.

Another easy option: the Nigella clementine cake. Instead of boiling the fruit for two hours as traditional, you microwave them, covered, for eight minutes, turning once. Then blend, add sugar, eggs and ground almonds. Done. Simple but with a depth of flavour; moist and fragrant, both dairy and gluten free.

brunch sweet 1

Meringues keep well and can be prepared a few days in advance. Pipe bite-sized versions in neat swirls for a professional finish. Ottolenghi’s brown sugar and cinnamon meringues have you dissolve all the sugar in the egg whites over a bain-marie, which creates glossy meringues that are delightfully sticky on the inside.

So, on the sweet side of the brunch table, there are already two cakes and some meringues. Maybe some cookies dug up from the freezer. I like making logs of shortbread mixture and freezing half for a later date, to slice and bake as many as needed.

And finally, a fruit compote for the glut of produce in the markets at the moment: for autumn, figs and plums cooked in syrupy red wine, sprinkled with fresh purple grapes (Henry again). I didn’t follow the recipe properly but the result was still lovely: I cooked a dozen large figs, halved, with a dozen fat plums, in red wine with sugar and a bit of liquorice vodka until soft. Then removed the fruit, simmered the sauce to a thick syrup and decorated with red grapes. All in a luxurious velvety purple, sweet and ripe. Delicious with fromage blanc.

brunch sweet 3

Enough to feed an army yet? With a few added extras – homemade lemon curd, some iced coffee –  your brunch should leave your guests in a happy (comatose) heap on the sofa…

cardamom meringues with flaked almonds

30 Oct

The lack of ‘story’ for these meringues is perturbing me a little, for they were some of the best just-thrown-together-cookies I have made in a long time. Egg whites, sugar, almonds, cardamom. Left in the oven to dry out overnight, wrapped in cellophane and blue ribbon the next morning to give to our favourite fruit lady in town.

Obviously, I stole one to taste, that is how I know they were (though I say so myself) really good.

Meringues make excellent presents: they look pretty, are simple and adaptable and will keep well in an airtight tin. These ones shatter on the outside to reveal a slightly chewy, nutty centre. The almonds take a backseat to the strong scent of cardamom, which makes them just out of the ordinary. Delicious with strong coffee, just a puff of sugar on the tongue and a lasting perfume of spice. They would be even more spectacular made into larger nests, filled with blackberries and whipped cream for an autumn dinner.


Cardamom meringues with flaked almonds

makes 20 – from an idea by Joy the Baker

2 egg whites

40g caster sugar

40g icing sugar

40g ground almonds

5 pods cardamom, ground

1/2 tsp vanilla essence

40g flaked/slivered almonds to decorate

Sieve the icing sugar and almonds together with the cardamom.

In a large (preferably metal) bowl, whisk the egg whites with a teaspoon of caster sugar until they start to become frothy and white. (This is 100 x easier with an electric whisk.) Gradually add the caster sugar a spoonful at a time until it’s all gone. Keep whisking until it forms a pillowy fluff, satiny smooth.

Gently fold in the almond/icing sugar mix and the vanilla. Try not to deflate the fluff! Scoop blobs onto a baking-paper lined baking sheet and sprinkle them with flaked almonds.

Bake at about 120C for an hour or so, then turn off the oven. Leave the meringues in there for at least another hour, best overnight. Keep in an airtight tin.

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