Crispy, chewy hazelnut meringues served with a spiced berry sauce and clouds of whipped cream. A gorgeous autumn dessert.
This recipe is another I cooked from Memories with Food at Gipsy House by Felicity and Roald Dahl (see my review and other recipes from the book here).
The Dahls employed a number of housekeeper-cooks - always young women - who each contributed their own recipes and unique styles. This particular dish originates from Josie Fison, one of the major influences on the book - described as a "breathtakingly brilliant" cook by Roald Dahl.
Having always been taught that meringue should be cooked low and slow, this recipe is something of a revelation. Cooked on a pretty high heat - 180c - the meringues puff up dramatically, forming a ethereally light, crisp outer shell and a soft, airy, chewy centre. Beautiful contrast.
The toasted hazelnuts, sprinkled on top, really add an important flavour and textural dimension.
The original Gipsy House recipe calls for the hazelnuts to be toasted in their skins in a low oven for two hours. Two hours?? For me, nuts are toasted for a maximum of ten-fifteen minutes, albeit on a higher heat. What am I missing? Are very long, slow-roasted nuts infinitely superior? I don't quite have the patience to conduct a two-hour experiment, but if anyone can shed any light on this issue I'd be delighted to hear from you.
The sauce I opted to serve these meringues with also deviates somewhat from the Gipsy House recipe. While they recommended a sweetened blackberry purée, I decided to use a spiced berry coulis recipe that I have tried in the past. The combination of fruits and spices make for a complex, layered taste which really jazzes up the somewhat one-dimensionally sweet meringue. You can serve it as a compôte as above, or blend it into a silky purée.
Both whipped and pouring cream work well with this dessert, depending on the presentation you are after - clouds or drizzles...
But to my mind both the additions - the berry sauce and the cream - are necessary to elevate the sweet meringue to something sublime. A range of flavours - fruity, sweet, tart, spicy, milky; and textures - airy, chewy, creamy, silky - are what makes this dessert.
Hazelnut meringues with berries
- 140 g hazelnuts
- 4 egg whites
- 225 g unrefined caster sugar
- drop of vanilla essence
- 1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
- berry coulis
- fresh cream
- Toast the hazelnuts for 10 minutes at 180c. Rub off the skins if necessary and roughly crush.
- Whisk the egg whites in a very clean bowl until soft peaks, then gradually beat in the sugar, vanilla essence and white wine vinegar until very stiff.
- Dollop the meringue onto a baking paper-lined tray and sprinkle with hazelnuts.
- Bake at 180c for 35 minutes and allow to cool completely before removing from the baking paper.
- Serve with berry coulis or compôte and dollops or drizzles of cream.