I finally got around to making that meringue I've been talking about. So many of Jamie's recipes call for store-bought meringues, but they don't seem to be available around here. I asked at one bakery recently, and was told that they hadn't sold them for 6 years! So, on this cold and rainy weekend, I decided baking was in order.
271. Tray-Baked Meringue with Pears, Cream, Toasted Hazelnuts and Chocolate Sauce (Jamie At Home, page 39)
JamieOliver.com recipe link
The meringue itself calls for 4 large free-range egg whites. I had a container of free-range egg whites in my fridge that was close to expiration, so I decided to use it up. I whipped the egg whites until stiff peaks formed, then added a pinch of sea salt and 1 1/4 cups of sugar. According to Jamie, it's done when you can rub a bit between your fingers and it is not grainy....about 7 or 8 minutes after adding the sugar. Thank you to faithful reader Brigitte who suggested to me that I should chill the bowl and beaters before whipping egg whites......it really helped. :)
I lined a baking sheet with waxed paper, and spread the meringue around, using the back of a spoon to create some peaks. I let this bake in a 300 F oven for an hour. That was about as far as I got on the weekend. I put the cooled meringue into the fridge for safe keeping. I pulled it out this evening and decided to make myself some dessert. So I toasted up some hazelnuts, opened a can of pears in light syrup, and went searching in my cupboard for a suitable bar of 70% dark chocolate to melt.
I tend to buy a lot of interesting items that I find on sale, knowing that I will have a stash on hand for the next month's foodie penpal box I have to assemble. So I happened to have a good selection of chocolate, and I thought the pear flavoured bar would be a great match. I put half the syrup from the pears into a small pot, and simmered it along with a bit of crystallized ginger. I removed the ginger before taking it off the heat, and added the pieces of chocolate to melt. I was really happy to see a recipe that didn't call for the addition of butter to the chocolate sauce! ;)
I assembled my dessert, layering meringue, pears, chopped nuts, and finally the chocolate sauce. I skipped the whipped cream, because after eating my creamy rice pudding all last week, my stomach just can't take more. I find that the flavours really go together well, and without the cream, it is a very nice, light dessert that I don't think will cause me any grief. It's always great to be able to get my chocolate fix in! I also am happy to find (by surfing the web) that I can apparently freeze the remainder of my meringue for later use. Who needs bakeries when I've got an oven?