Wednesday 2 January 2008
An impressive French meringue cake, this makes a grand dessert for any festive menu - although rich and delicious, the overall effect is very light, and so works well after the demands of two or three other courses. A few raspberries or sliced strawberries macerated in a little maraschino (Luxardo's, by preference) makes a refreshing accent to the creaminess of the cake. Nobody is hungry by this stage of the meal, but a few forkfuls of Marjolaine and the tangy taste of berries will sign things off perfectly.
As with many other multi-stage recipes, this might seem like a lot of work, but in fact it isn't. When made for New Year's Eve dinner, the other day, nothing was started until after tea things had been cleared away, and it was a gentle jog-trot thereafter - in parallel with all other dinner-related activities - to have the thing finished and refrigerated well inside a couple of hours.
Serves six, generously, or eight with a garnish.
Ingredients:150gms of ground Almonds; 120g Sugar; 10g plain Flour; 3 Egg Whites, stiffly beaten with a pinch of Salt; 300ml of cream - whipped; 150g Bitter Chocolate; half a tsp Vanilla Essence or the contents of a vanilla pod; 2 tbsp of the Praline powder above. Chocolate shavings or toasted slivered almonds to decorate the sides of the completed cake.
1. Make a praline by grilling the powdered Almonds until golden brown. Cool completely and mix with the Sugar in a food processor to form a fine powder. (If the nuts and Sugar are warm, the mixture can get oily and form a clump, not a powder. If this happens, break it into small pieces and freeze them. Pulverise the frozen pieces briefly in the food processor.)
Add the flour.
2. Fold this praline mixture into the stiffly beaten Egg Whites. Make four equal 4" narrow rectangles by spreading, or piping, the mixture1/2"- 3/4" thick onto a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper. Bake at 200°C for 3-4mins or until the surface is just dry and the texture quite springy; don't overcook, or the sponge will collapse . Cool on a rack. If necessary trim the meringues so they are the same size. If not using straight away, store in an air-tight container. Be careful, they are very fragile.
3. A couple of hours before dinner, whip the Cream and divide between three small bowls. Flavour each third of the whipped cream with either melted chocolate, praline or vanilla.
4. Smear a spoonful of one of the creams on the serving dish - or cake board if you have one - to stick the first meringue in place. Spread it with one of the creams. Top with the second meringue and the second cream. Add the third layer and third cream. Finish with the fourth meringue, press down very gently and cover the sides with a thin layer of any of the remaining cream. Decorate the outside with something like chocolate shavings, toasted sliced almonds or small plaques of tempered chocolate. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve. Slice with a serrated knife.