There are not many things I find more relaxing after a long tour than coming home for a few days and getting time to cook, or more specifically, to bake.
I don’t know what it is about the sweet stuff that fascinates me so much (although getting to eat it afterwards is obviously one giant incentive!) but I love the different creations that can come from so few ingredients. Let’s be honest, when your main ingredients are butter and sugar, it’s pretty likely it’ll taste good.
I’ve been staying in Nashville recently with a great friend who likes to throw parties a lot. It’s great for me not only because it means I get to meet loads of other cool people in Nashville, and not least because several of her close friends happen to also be professional chefs. Not a bad deal!
At one recent party I wanted to contribute something to the overflowing table of food, and decided to make the dessert. A bit of pressure, making the only dessert while being surrounded by the city’s top chefs, so I had to pick a fail-safe option. And there is nothing more fail-safe than homemade meringue.
So easy to make, and completely irresistible when combined with large amounts of cream, mascarpone, sugar and fresh fruit. And I threw in some spun sugar too for some extra sweetness and crunch. I ended up making the recipe again the same week because I liked it so much.
So here’s the recipe – give it a try, it’s bound to help make this a great weekend:
(Recipe adapted from http://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/meringues.html)
Meringues (makes about 8 individual meringue nests)
2 large egg whites
4 oz (1/2 cup) caster sugar
Preheat the oven to 300F/ 150C/ Gas Mark 2
Line a baking sheet with silicone paper or parchment paper.
To make the meringues, place the egg whites in a large bowl and, using an electric hand whisk or kitchen aid on a low speed, begin whisking.
Continue for about 2 minutes, until the whites are foamy, then switch the speed to medium and carry on whisking for 1 more minute.
Now turn the speed to high and continue whisking until the egg whites reach the stiff-peak stage. Next, whisk the sugar in on fast speed, a little at a time (about a dessertspoon), until you have a stiff and glossy mixture.
Now all you do is spoon 8 heaped dessertspoons of the mixture on to the prepared baking sheet, spacing them evenly.
(You can also just do one giant meringue if you’re just going to break it up later.)
Next, put the meringue on the centre shelf of the oven, immediately reduce the heat to gas mark 1, 275°F (140°C) and leave them for 30 minutes.
After that, turn the oven off and leave the meringues to dry out in the warmth of the oven until it is completely cold (usually about 4 hours).
You can top with cream and fresh fruit, or go for an even more indulgent option…
3 peaches, cut into slices
Raspberries, strawberries (sliced), or other fresh fruit
Small tub of Mascarpone, or alternatively use regular cream cheese (don’t worry too much about the exact measurements for these ingredients, just do it to taste)
Small tub creme fraiche, or alternatively about 200ml whipping cream
1 tbsp Sugar/ Powdered sugar to taste, add more to taste
1tsp Vanilla extract
Cook the peaches in a pan with a little cold water and a couple teaspoons sugar. Keep on a low heat and cook until softened. You can also add in a handful of the raspberries if you like. When cooked, put into a dish to cool.
Mix the mascarpone, creme fraiche and vanilla together and add sugar to taste. Mix in the fresh fruit. (Leave some for topping)
Break up the meringue and add to the cream mixture. Break some up fine, and leave some big chunks too.
Once the cooked fruit has cooled, put in the bottom of your serving dish. Spoon the cream and meringue mixture on top.
Top with remaining fruit.
If you’d also like to add some spun sugar on top for decoration, here is a great website with videos about how to make spun sugar. It’s very easy! http://www.cookingwithcandra.com/blog/2010/04/12/butter-pecan-cheesecake-with-spun-sugar/