Foodiva's Kitchen: Fennel~Anise~Caraway Meringue Tower, anyone?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Fennel~Anise~Caraway Meringue Tower, anyone?

What a peculiar combination of flavours for a dessert, you might wonder? Well, maybe not really, since I was inspired to make this meringue whilst drinking an equally peculiar but delicious brew called (surprise!) Fennel-Anise-Caraway Herbal Tea. Yes, the mix came packaged in lovely, green 'teabags' which was a bit of a misnomer because there wasn't really any tea in there. Next time though, I'll go out and get handfuls of these seeds so I can blend them to the proportions I want myself.

I really liked the liquorice-ish flavour of these three spices, and they have proven health benefits too, such as easing menstrual cramps, flatulence, indigestion - all those tummy region discomforts. Back to the dessert, the meringues were great on their own but I found them very sweet so I paired them up with some sour cherries to balance the sweetness. Yes, it's all about balance, people. That, and beauty, oh, and pleasure. Always try to feel pleasure when eating a great dessert!

What I love: The blended seeds gave a crunchy, liquorice-like taste to the meringue biscuits. Chic!
What I hate: Making the meringue part. Egg-whites, I think, hate me. They rise to an airy perfection when first beaten, then deflate defiantly as soon as I add sugar into it. As a result, my meringue mixture was a bit on the runny side, however, everything worked out well in the end. There, there's my disclaimer. Somebody out there please teach me the correct technique for next time.

The spices blended with sugar

That's how many teabags I desecrated to get this amount of spices!

~ Love me, love me, saaaayyy that you love me! ~

Have them plain.....

....or all dressed up to the nines.

Beautiful, even in devastation!

Fennel~Anise~Caraway Meringue Tower
• 4 large organic egg whites, at room temperature
• 115g caster sugar
• 115g icing sugar
• 2 tablespoons fennel, anise & caraway seeds
• Whipped cream and sour cherries, to decorate

1. Preheat the oven to 110°C. Line a baking sheet with non-stick baking paper (meringue can stick on greaseproof paper and foil).
2. Tip the egg whites into a large clean mixing bowl (not plastic). Beat them on medium speed with an electric whisk until the mixture resembles a fluffy cloud and stands up in stiff peaks when the blades are lifted.
3. Turn the speed up and start to add the caster sugar, a teaspoonful at a time. Continue beating for 3-4 seconds between each addition. It's important to add the sugar slowly at this stage as it helps prevent the meringue from weeping later (my bad!). Don't over-beat. When ready, the mixture should be thick and glossy.
4. Grind the spices finely together with the icing sugar, then gently fold in this mixture with a big metal spoon or rubber spatula. Continue to fold in the icing sugar a third at a time. Again, don't over-mix.
5. Scoop up a heaped tablespoonful of the mixture and drop them into rough rounds on the tray. Bake for 1 ½ -1 ¾ hours until the meringues are crisp and are a pale coffee colour. Leave to cool on the trays or a cooling rack. (The meringues will now keep in an airtight tin for up to 2 weeks, or frozen for a month.)
6. Serve three meringues together with a generous dollop of whipped cream and pitted sour cherries sandwiched in between.

Remember, pleasure is not a sin, so enjoy!

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