Soft, smooth ice cream, sweet, crunchy praline & a mellow hint of frangelico
The first time I ate ice cream with alcohol in, it made me cry.
I was on holiday with my family in Italy, a much littler loaf than I am now, and we’d just emerged from eating lunch at our favourite local pizzeria. The kind of pizzeria with no pretensions, just incredible dough rolled paper thin, rich red tomato sauce spread over the top and milky mozzarella dotted between volcanic blisters of risen crust. By all accounts we should have been full, but anyone with even the slightest sweet tooth will understand that there’s full, and then there’s the pudding stomach.
Normally we’d have jumped in the car and headed up into the walled town to get a cone of homemade ice cream from one of the local bars, but for some reason or other we had to get on the road. If memory serves me correctly it was raining, so my Dad hot footed it into the next door café to grab a couple of cornettos for my brother and I to eat in the car 0n our way to wherever we were going. Continue reading
Sponge fingers encase creamy layers of tiramisu topped with fresh raspberries
‘Some woman is going to want me to do it to her, and I’m not going to know what it is.’
‘You’ll love it.’
20 years ago, the world was a very different place. In lots of ways, of course, but this particular scene from Sleepless in Seattle where Tom Hanks’ character is about to embark on the dating scene again shows just how much our knowledge of different types of food has changed since 1993. To even be able to contemplate including such a joke in the script, the screenwriter would have had to be pretty comfortable that plenty of people didn’t know what tiramisu was; that for every person laughing at Hanks’ clueless comment, another one would be scratching their head and wondering what this unusual aphrodisiac might be. With 5.3 million pages returning on the search term ‘tiramisu’ on UK Google alone today, that hardly seems possible now. Continue reading
Layers of hazelnut & chocolate meringue, vanilla & praline cream & chocolate ganache
While Italian food will always hold a special place in my heart, when it comes to desserts I have to admit it’s the French who really know what they’re talking about. Their puds are good. Too good, perhaps. Elegant, flawless and invariably involving multiple stages, these incredible feats of confection can often feel beyond the realm of your average home baker, appearing more frequently in the pages of a restaurant menu or the window of your local patisserie than on a private kitchen table. Recipes requiring rounds of piping bags, pints of cream and the patience of a saint aren’t everyone’s idea of fun, and a fancy French gâteau can be altogether far flightier than a dependable British pud.
That said, sometimes you need to take a leap of faith. It’s easy to stay in your kitchen comfort zone and shy away from anything that sounds too tricky, but where’s the fun in that? Continue reading
Last night Carniverous Boyfriend and I headed South of the river to my parents’ house for our first BBQ of the year (woohoo!). After the glorious sunshine of last weekend the weather didn’t quite deliver, but it was definitely warm enough to be outside. Sipping a glass of cold prosecco as the smoky smell of chargilled meat filled the air, I started to feel like summer could be on its way.
My Mum asked me to bring a pudding and, knowing my Dad had been put in charge of buying the meat, I decided to go for something light and summery to cleanse our palates after the protein onslaught. Platters of rare sirloin steak, garlicky chicken supreme and three different types of sausages later, a delicately creamy dessert proved exactly what the doctor ordered.
These praline meringues are crispy, delicious and so simple to make, the brown sugar and praline adding a delicious nutty crunch which works well against the smooth maple mousse. I opted to freeze my mousse for an extra contrast of textures, but I think it would work just as well without. And if you’re feeling really lazy, you could forgo the mousse altogether and serve with a dollop of thick cream or Greek yoghurt, drizzling a little maple syrup over the top to finish.
Praline meringues with frozen maple mousse
Serves 8 comfortably (depending on the size you make your meringues!)
- A handful of pecan nuts
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Line a baking tray with parchment.
- Mix the pecans and maple syrup together then spread on the tray and bake for 8-10 minutes until golden – the maple syrup will caramelize around the nuts, creating a delicious crunchy praline. Remove from the oven and cool on the tray.
- Chop the cool pecan praline roughly to a chunky crumb, leaving aside a few whole pecans to decorate later.
Pecan praline meringues
- 4 egg whites
- 100g soft brown sugar
- 100g caster sugar
- Preheat the oven to 120 degrees C. Line a baking tray with parchment.
- Whisk the egg whites in a large bowl to a soft peak. Add the soft brown sugar and continue to whisk to form very firm peaks. Finally fold in the caster sugar and praline crumbs with a large metal spoon, leaving as much air in the meringue as possible.
- Spoon the meringue mixture onto the prepared baking tray. I used a dessert spoon to make nine even sized meringues, slightly spaced apart. You could vary this but remember you’ll need to adjust cooking times according to size.
- Cook for one hour at 120 degrees C, then reduce the oven temperature to 100 degrees C and cook for another hour. They should be hard when you tap the outside, and slightly golden. Remove from the oven and cool on the tray.
- Store in an airtight tin until you’re ready to assemble.
Frozen maple syrup mousse
- 3 eggs, separated
- 100g maple syrup
- 425 ml double cream
- A pinch of sea salt
- Whisk the 3 egg yolks in a large heatproof bowl until thick and foamy. Warm the maple syrup over low heat until nearly boiling, then pour over the egg yolks and continue whisking over a bain marie until thick and creamy. Remove from heat and continue whisking until cold. Put in the fridge to chill further.
- Softly whip the cream and fold into the chilled egg yolk and syrup mixture. Put back in the fridge while you complete the final stage.
- Whip the egg whites to firm peaks with the pinch of sea salt. Fold in the chilled syrup, cream and egg yolk mixture then freeze.
Put the meringue on a plate. Using an ice cream scoop, place a large dollop of maple mousse on top. Decorate with remaining pralines.
You could also make flatter meringues and stack in layers with the mousse for something bit fancier. And if you have any leftover mousse you can serve in little ramekins like the one below. Enjoy!