Monday, 28 May 2012

Apricot and Almond Meringue Gateau

Recipe Number One Hundred & Ninety Eight:  Page 364.

As it was such a toasty warm day, I wanted to make a fresh and summery treat. A slice of cake just wouldn't cut it; I was on the hunt for a fruity dessert. When I came across this recipe for an apricot and almond meringue gateau I knew that I had struck gold. It sounded absolutely delicious. The amount of work required was a little daunting but it sounded as though it would be well worth the effort.

I already had most of the ingredients but still needed to get some dried apricots and double cream. Isaac was desperately in need of some new shoes so we decided to spend our morning traipsing around shops in the scorching heat!! It was some time before our wilting bodies arrived home. I was well and truly cooked! By late afternoon I had just enough energy to shuffle into the kitchen to make a start on the meringue.

Making the meringue itself was relatively straightforward. I simply had to whisk the egg whites until stiff, and then add a teaspoonful of sugar at a time. It was hard to resist the urge to tip in the whole quantity of sugar in one go and forgo the boredom. Once or twice I dared to add two teaspoonfuls at a time – I like to live life on the edge!! After all the sugar had been added I carried on whisking until the mixture was very stiff and standing in peaks. I was really proud of my meringue. I think it's the first time I've managed to get the peaks to stand to attention; they usually flop! The last ingredient for the meringue was the ground almonds. When I'd read the recipe header I had assumed that almond essence would be used for flavour, so I was pleased to be using the real McCoy! I carefully folded the ground almonds into the thick meringue and then spooned the mixture onto two lined baking trays. Mary says to spread into circles 8 inches in diameter. To avoid odd sized meringues, I had located a ruler and measured two equal circles. Get me!!!!

As the meringues cooked for just over an hour on a very low heat, I resumed my position on the sofa and fanned myself with a magazine (Isaac is frightened of our desk fan)!! When the cooking time was complete I went to check on the two meringues. Mary says they are ready when they peel away from the paper. Thankfully she's kind enough to point out that we shouldn't worry if they stick in the middle as it is a sticky meringue. I was relieved to hear this as both mine were sticky and, as I moved them onto a wire rack, they cracked and broke apart. If this had happened when I'd first started this challenge I would probably have burst into tears and given up. I must have learnt to laugh off mistakes as I just sighed “Oh well”!

Now it was time to make the apricot filling. I tipped a small quantity of apricots into my smallest saucepan, along with some water and a strip of lemon rind. I was to heat this gently for about twenty minutes or until the apricots were very tender. While they cooked I went outside to play. On our shopping trip we'd seen a combined plastic sandpit and paddling pool on special offer. We couldn't resist as it would be perfect for this weather. Isaac wasn't sure about the sandpit so, in an attempt to reassure him, I made sandcastles and sieved the sand. I had a great time! He soon warmed to the paddling pool once he'd overcome the initial chill. He LOVED splashing his poor mummy and was in absolute fits of giggles. Eventually I had to leave the fun and take my soggy body back into the kitchen to check on the apricots.

A waft of burning hit my nostrils as soon I walked in through the door. On close inspection, the pan had boiled dry and a delightful brown coating had glued to the bottom. The apricots were of course inedible – whoops! I brought out another small pan, (this time non stick) and started again. Thank goodness I had enough apricots. This time I was careful to keep a watchful eye on the pan! Once the apricots were tender I plucked them out and placed them into the blender. There wasn't enough for the blades to catch hold of, so I ended up adding the water from the pan plus a little more from the tap. That did the trick and I soon had smooth (well almost) purée. It smelt delicious.

I measured more water into the pan and tipped in some granulated sugar. Once the sugar had dissolved, I squeezed in a little lemon juice and boiled it steadily for three minutes to make a sugar syrup. This would be put to use later, so I left it on the side to cool.

Funny how a meringue is low fat until you add the artery clogging cream! I poured a hefty amount into a bowl and whisked it until it was just holding its shape. At this point a dripping wet child padded in through the back door in floods of tears. My first thought was that Isaac had hurt himself. I picked him up, forgetting that he was soaking wet, nice!!! I didn't feel quite so sorry for him when Neil informed me that Isaac didn't want to come inside and leave his paddling pool. The world as Isaac knew it was over! Thankfully, it doesn't take much to cheer up a toddler and, a few minutes later, I heard him happily splashing in the bath and Neil singing to him at the top of his lungs. I'm sure our neighbours look forward to bath time!

Now I just had to finish off the dessert; I was nearly there! I folded one-third of the apricot mixture into almost all of the cream. My mouth was literally watering as it looked so good! I sandwiched the two flat and broken meringues together with the apricot cream, performing first aid as I went. Now it was time to carry out the finishing touches. I dusted over some icing sugar, then piped rosettes around the edge of the meringue using the remaining cream. The last little bit of apricot purée was not to be forgotten. I diluted it with the sugar syrup. It was to be used as a sauce. I tried to take a decent photograph. However, the meringue, cream and dusting of icing sugar made for a very white dessert. I found it impossible to take a passable photo! I wasn't too fussed as I was keen to dive in and have a taste.

It was just as I imagined it would be – absolutely divine! We all loved it. I believe the key reason for its success is the perfect combination of the almond and apricot flavours. They worked beautifully together. It is the perfect summer dessert. It was perhaps a little faffy to make but it really was worth it.
Just realised that the plates don't match!!!!

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