For the last few days, every time we ride on the cycle path on our way to and from the kids school, we can’t help but notice the branches loaded with blackberries on either side, waiting to be picked. Every time, I feel that I should get hold some of these wonderfully sweet berries before they disappear altogether. Experience from the last six years of going through that lane has taught us well about the sweetness of the berries. They may not be ‘perfectly formed’ as one might see in the supermarkets, may differ in shapes and sizes, but, my, oh my, they are so sweet. Of course, one needs to brave the thorns in the way, but I guess, it’s a small price to pay for such a beautiful bounty of nature.
So, the other day, I decided to get some. I actually managed to get quite a lot, and even after that there was so much left. Anyways, after getting them home and staining our tongues and teeth with these gorgeous berries; after putting them in lollies, and making smoothies etc, there were a few leftovers. I was planning to make some meringues with brown sugar and realised that they would go beautifully with those berries on top. And thus were born the brown sugar meringues topped with blackberry yogurt and fresh blackberries.
Although making meringues may seem to be very simple, a few things should be taken into consideration or they will be ruined. Meringues can be quite moody and one can never be too careful. One needs to remember that there are soft meringues like the ones topped on pies etc and then, there are firm meringues like mine which have a crunchier consistency and are baked for longer. Most of the following are true for both, and where they aren’t, I have mentioned in the pointers-
- Fresh eggs at room temperature- they separate easily and are more stable when whisked.
- Separating eggs- care should be taken that not the tiniest bit of yolk falls on the egg whites, or the whites will not reach the desired volume when whisked. In fact, any kind of fat should be kept away from the whites.
- Bowl- a squeaky clean and dry copper or steel bowl produces the best results, but glass bowls may also be used. Always make sure that there is no trace of grease in the bowls.Try to avoid plastic bowls. The beaters should be clean and dry as well.
- Moisture- meringues and moisture do not go together and if there is too much of moisture around it will cause the meringue to be sticky instead of crisp and dry. Wet, damp and humid days are not the best time for making meringues. Also do not leave the kettle boiling, or any other such thing while you’re making meringues.
- Sugar- Although most of the time, fine white sugar is used to make meringues, I have made mine with dark brown sugar and they have come out really well. However, there are some things to remember while adding sugar, whatever kind it is. Do not add the sugar too soon or the whites will not whip up to their full potential. Add the sugar, and that too, a little at a time, sprinkled over the mixture, only when the mixture has reached a stiff peak ( this part is true only for firm meringues like the ones I have made and not for softer ones on top of pies)
- Baking meringues- The meringue mixture is placed on a tray lined with foil or greaseproof paper. You can use piping bags and pipe out the mixture or for a more rustic look, just place spoonfuls in heaps and spread out into rough circles. Softer meringues have a lesser baking time, but firm meringues like mine are baked at lower temperatures for a longer period of time, until they have dried out. The oven is then turned off and the meringues are cooled completely in the oven itself and left there till the oven itself cools down. This produces a crisp meringue. Again, they should not turn brown. Mine were already a bit coloured when I made the mixture as I used brown sugar, but they did not brown further like cookies etc.
These are just a few pointers that I have learnt from here and there and have come in really handy for me; if you have any tips and tricks regarding meringues, feel free to leave them with your comments. After all, one can never learn enough.
Regarding the adding of brown sugar, I have read somewhere that they made the meringues too chewy, but I beg to differ. Not meaning to boast, but my meringues were light, dry and crisp and melted as soon as you popped a piece in your mouth. Moreover, the brown sugar adds a lovely caramel flavour. As long as one keeps the few basic things in mind, there should be no reason as to why brown sugar cannot replace the white in meringues. I am not saying this after making them just once. They turned out to be so popular that I made two more batches with the same results. It requires very little hands on time and the oven takes care of the rest. The low temperatures and the prolonged baking dries out the meringues beautifully and they are as crisp as ever.
For the meringues-
2 egg whites
4 tblsp of dark muscovado sugar (make sure there are no lumps)
For the topping-
2 and a 1/2 C of blackberries
1/4 c water
2-3 tblsp of honey
250 gms of Greek yogurt or cream cheese ( quark would go quite well) ( I used Total Greek Yogurt), beaten with a tblsp ( more or less) of honey
Few fresh blackberries for garnish
- Pre heat the oven at 115 deg C and line a baking tray with foil.
- In a clean and dry bowl, place the egg whites and beat till very stiff.
- Add the sugar, one tblsp at a time and beat till glossy.
- Place spoonfuls of the mixture into five mounds and with a spoon, spread out into rough circles of about 4 inches in diameter. You can also do do this with a piping bag if you want smoother circles.
- Reduce the heat of the oven to 110 deg C.
- Place the tray in the centre of the pre heated oven and bake for about 3 hrs and 20 min. Switch the tray back to front, halfway through. They are ready when the top feels firm and crisp. When you touch the tops, they should feel firm and your finger should not sink in. On cooling, they will come away easily from the foil and the bottom will be dry and smooth and will sound hollow and crisp when gently tapped. It may need a little more or less time,according to your oven, so check halfway through to get an idea of how much more time it will take and then bake accordingly. Do no let them burn or colour too much.
- Keep them on the tray, and cool them completely in the oven, and also till the oven has cooled down completely, keeping the door of the oven a little ajar.
- ***The meringues ( without topping) will keep for at least a week if stored in air tight containers.
- While the meringues are baking, get started on the thick blackberry sauce.
- Place the blackberries, water and honey in a thick bottomed pan and lightly crush the berries.
- Place the pan over heat and simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently, till it becomes a thick mixture. Cool completely.
- When the blackberry mixture has cooled completely, fold it roughly into the yogurt mixture.
- To serve- Place a meringue on a plate, spread a dollop of the blackberry yogurt and top with some fresh blackberries. I also added a few fresh blackberies on the side.
- ***Note- Top the meringues just before serving or they will go soggy.
I know I shouldn’t say this, but if you love blackberries, you’ll adore this. As you pass the fork through the soft topping and dig into the crisp meringue, popping it into your mouth and feel everything melt in your mouth, you can only go,’ mmm’!
Do I still need to say that we absolutely adored this? This goes straight to my list of favourites I guess. And the fact that, on the whole, the dessert is not cloyingly sweet, helps too!