Whilst sweet things are not generally my favourite dishes to cook or to eat, I do admit that I love anything remotely meringue-like. Whether they are crispy or mallow-ish, creamy like the Italian style meringue, bite size or king size, I love them. I will say no to cake, but always say yes to pavlova, or pretty meringues in a cake shop window. Today I had a day off and thought I would have a go at making a hazelnut meringue, which is my absolute favourite kind.
The nuts add a great texture dimension, as well as that heavenly hazelnut taste. You could make individual meringues, but today I went with a large round one, which I decided to serve with Chantilly cream and fresh strawberries, which are in season now and are particularly good. I confess that I cracked the meringue a bit when getting it from the tray to the serving dish, but the beauty of this sort of dish is that you can hide any cracks under a delicious topping. No dramas.
The Chantilly cream is very easy to make, (you could add some cocoa to it if you wanted a chocolate cream) but I beg you not to use that awful fake vanilla essence in this recipe - or any other for that matter. Invest in proper vanilla extract - it is worth the few extra dollars I promise. Fake vanilla essence is the work of Satan and has no place in the kitchen, except for cleaning the inside of your fridge with.
Although this dish needs over an hour in the oven, it is actually quite simple, so worth giving a go - even if like me , you aren't really the baking type. You could get really creative with the toppings too - roasted nuts, shaved chocolate, different kinds of seasonal fruit. Drizzling it with raspberry or chocolate sauce would be lovely too. You could also shape the meringue to be taller than mine, if you wanted it to be more pavlova like.
Hazelnut Meringue with Chantilly Cream & Strawberries
You will need: 4 free range egg whites, 1 cup caster sugar, 1 cup ground hazelnuts, 1 teaspoon white vinegar, 2 teaspoons cornflour, 300ml whipping cream, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 2 tablespoons icing sugar, 1 punnet strawberries.
Method: Preheat the oven to 120C. Line an oven or pizza tray with baking paper.
In a very clean, dry, metal or ceramic bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar, a tablespoon full at a time and continue to beat until all combined. Add the cornflour and vinegar until mixed through.
Gently fold in the hazelnuts until evenly mixed. Transfer the mixture to the baking tray and using a spoon or spatula, form the meringue to the desired shape. I build up the sides a little for presentation purposes and for ease of serving later.
Wipe any excess off the baking paper. Bake meringue for 1 hour and 15 minutes. When it is done, turn off the oven and allow the meringue to cool there, without removing it. You can leave the oven door slightly ajar to speed up the process a bit.
In a bowl, combine the cream, sugar and vanilla extract. Beat together until firm enough to spread. Use this to top the cooled meringue. Finish with the strawberries and serve.
Serves 6-8 people
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