Just before Christmas, one of my neighbours invited us to dinner at his house over the festive period. During the discussions as to what he may cook on the night (we settled on something containing fish), I volunteered to make the dessert if he provided the pre-dinner nibbles and the main meal. Why I offered to make the dessert after 5 days of almost solid baking (for customers and family), I don’t know, but I did.
Keen to provide a dessert which he liked (bearing in mind that he is the neighbour who had a strong opinion about my mincemeat and pecan crumble slices), I asked him what his favourite dessert would be. He said that it would be something containing meringues, nuts and chocolate. Already armed with a go-to meringue recipe in the form of a Martha Collison recipe from her recipe book, ‘Twist’ (an excellent book if you would like my opinion), I had to have a little think about what I needed to make to accompany the meringues. Knowing that I had a couple of bags of hazelnuts which needed to be used, I googled ‘hazelnut meringues’. As if by magic, my favourite recipe site, ‘BBC Good Food’ popped up with a recipe which incorporated the three ingredients I required, meringues, nuts and chocolate. As I already had a meringue recipe to hand, I used the BBC Good Food recipe for hazelnut praline and chocolate sauce.
The result of my bakes was a mound of mini-meringues, a golden hazelnut praline and a smooth, rich and decadent chocolate sauce. Armed with my meringues, praline and chocolate sauce and a carton of double cream, we made our way to our neighbours around 7.30pm. After a delicious fish pie accompanied by beans and a Tuscan bean side dish, I assembled my pudding as outlined in the recipe below. I know you should not blow your own trumpet, but I have to say that the pudding was delicious. I think everyone else would agree as everyone had seconds. Jo and I even had thirds the next day after lunch. Feeling that my waistband may expand too much if I had a forth helping, I sent my younger sister home with the remains of the dessert for her family and friend to enjoy. She seemed quite happy to relieve me of my goodies.
So pleased was I with the dessert that I have included the recipes in this blog post for you to try if you so wish. Happy baking!
Mini-meringues, praline cream, hazelnut praline and chocolate sauce
- 300g white caster sugar
- 150g egg whites
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (fan) and line a large baking sheet with baking paper.
- Pour the sugar onto the baking sheet and spread it out in an even layer. Warm in the oven for about 6 minutes, until it feels hot to the touch.
- While the sugar is heating up, place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer (ensure that it is clean and grease-free). Whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks.
- Remove the hot sugar from the oven when ready and turn the oven down to 100 degrees Celsius.
- Whisk the hot sugar into the egg whites, adding a spoonful of sugar at a time and ensuring that the sugar is fully mixed before adding the next spoonful. Add the sugar slowly and carefully as if added too quickly the meringue will collapse,
- When all the sugar has been added, turn the mixer speed up and whisk the mixture for 8-10 minutes or until the mixture is thick and glossy. Check the mixture by rubbing a small amount of the mixture between your fingers. You should not feel any grains of sugar. If the mixture feels gritty, whisk it for a few more minutes until it feels smooth.
- Line one or more baking sheets with baking paper (depending on the size of the baking trays).
- Spoon the meringue mixture into a piping bag with a star or round nozzle or snip off the tip.
- Pipe out 40-50 meringues, depending on the size you require, leaving spaces between each on the baking sheet.
- Bake them in the oven for 1.5 hours until crisp on the outside and they can peel of the baking paper without sticking.
- Let them cool completely.
Hazelnut praline and praline cream
- 150g caster sugar
- 150g hazelnuts
- 300ml whipping cream
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (fan) and line a large baking sheet with baking paper. Place the hazelnuts on the baking sheet and toast in the oven for 6 minutes.
- In the meantime, warm a small heavy-based pan over a medium heat and cook the caster sugar until it melts and turns a rich caramel colour. Carefully swirl the toasted hazelnuts around the pan until they are fully coated. Pour the mixture out onto a tray lined with baking paper. Leave to cool.
- Chop two-thirds of the hazelnut praline in a food processor and set aside. Chop the rest of the hazelnut praline into bite size pieces.
- Whisk the cream into soft peaks. Stir half the processed hazelnut praline through the cream (you can be more generous if you wish).
- 50g golden caster sugar
- 50g cocoa powder
- 50g dark chocolate
- Make the chocolate sauce by heating together 150ml water, the caster sugar and cocoa powder until boiling. Pour over the chocolate and whisk well until smooth.
- Spoon a layer of the praline cream into the bottom of a glass bowl or rounded glass.
- Place 5-6 small meringues on top of the cream, pushing the meringues into the cream.
- Place a generous spoonful of the praline cream on top of the meringues and then pour over a generous helping of chocolate sauce.
- Top with a sprinkle of the processed hazelnut praline and the hazelnut praline pieces on top.
(Source: Martha Collison and BBC Good Food)