This little project came about as a way of creating a dessert for another recent family dinner at cousin Jen's house. Steve, as usual, requested something with chocolate, and since I wanted to keep it on the lighter side, I decided on a nutty meringue base as the launch for what was to come. Cue in chocolate ganache, chocolate crunchy crumbs and fresh berries. Not a bad way to go.
I used my rectangular tart form to outline the shape in which I wanted to pipe my meringue. The pics below give you a nifty technique with which to create the area you'd like to fill.
Place your desired form/shape on your lined sheet pan (I'm using silpat here since it's my fave for baking meringues), dust around the edges with powdered sugar . . .
then simply lift off the form and your outline is staring you right in the face. How cool is that?!
Now pipe away!! The powdered sugar won't hurt a thing since the meringue receives a dusting anyway before going in the oven.
The meringue bakes at 350ºF for about 20 minutes until nicely browned.
The beauty of meringue is its make-ahead-ability. Do it several days ahead and freeze it or, if doing it the day before, just lightly wrap it at room temperature until you're ready for the next step.
Time to assemble. For this one I poured a thin layer of a standard 1:1 ganache made with 61% Guittard chocolate over the base, inside the raised edge. I let it set a bit.
Then a light layer of chocolate shortbread crunchy crumbs . . .
and to finish off a whipped chocolate ganache made with the same Guittard chocolate in a 3:1 cream to chocolate ratio, more crunchies and some lovely fresh berries.
And just to show you another version, here's a small round base I made with the same hazelnut meringue. This one got a sprinkle of chopped hazelnuts too. Create your own and top it with whatever your little heart desires!
Here's the recipe for the hazelnut meringue. It makes just the right amount to create both the 11"x4" rectangle and the 6"-ish/16 cm round forms you see here. Play around with your own shapes and sizes.
- 198 g egg whites (about 6 large) at room temperature
- 50 g cane sugar (many use superfine sugar for meringues - sometimes I do, sometimes I don't)
- 198 g hazelnut flour or meal
- 150 g powdered sugar
- Heat the oven to 350ºF (or 325º convection)
- Whisk the hazelnut flour and powdered sugar together in a medium bowl.
- Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on low for several minutes until a nice foam starts developing, then shower in the granulated sugar on medium-low speed until it's all added.
- Up the speed to high and whisk to medium stiff peaks.
- Fold in half of the hazelnut mixture, then add the second half and fold until nicely combined.
- Pipe or spread your meringue in the shape of your choice.
- Bake about 20 minutes until nicely browned. Pay attention to what's going on in that oven!!
Once your base is cool proceed with your choice of filling. The sky's the limit. And remember you can sub in pretty much any nut flour for the hazelnut in the meringue recipe. Even do half-and-half of two different nuts. Yes!
Here are just a few filling ideas: a simple lightly sweetened Chantilly cream topped with fresh berries; a tangy citrus curd lightened with whipped cream and topped with tropical fruits and maybe even a little toasted coconut; any whipped ganache using white, milk or dark chocolate topped with your own version of shortbread crumbs - how about chai or ginger - and your favorite nut, seed or sesame brittle; a standard pastry cream topped with lightly poached pear slices, some candied nuts and a drizzle of caramel.
It's up to you!