There are some food combinations that just undeniably work: tomato and basil, salmon and dill, goats cheese and figs, lamb and mint, and so it goes on. In my books, chocolate and fruit are one of these matches made in heaven. I’ve been seeing punnets of really plump, dark raspberries in the shops lately and find them utterly irresistible. After a fruitful (seewhatIdidthere) trip to the greengrocers on Sunday morning, I spent Sunday afternoon whipping up some treats for an afternoon tea catch-up with some of my very favourite ladies. Of course there had to be chocolate included in the spread somewhere, and so the chocolate-raspberry loaf was born.
If raspberries aren’t really to your taste (although we may have to have a little falling out if this is the case) or if you can’t get your paws on any, then this recipe would definitely be easy to adapt. Try candied orange peel folded through the sponge mix and orange zest in the icing. Or dried cherries and a splash of Kirsch. Or freeze-dried strawberries in the sponge and strawberry puree whisked through the icing. If the idea of fruit anywhere near your chocolate is an insult, then just leave the offending ingredients out for an unadulterated chocolate hit. A table spoon or two of cocoa powder in the icing might be more up your street. Whatever you decide, the underlying recipe is ridiculously easy – we’re using the “all-in-one” method where all the ingredients are whisked together in one go. No creaming, no risk of egg-curdling, no sifting. Convinced? Ready, set, let’s go!
Ingredients 140g butter, softened 180g plain flour 20g cocoa powder 3 tsp baking powder 200g caster sugar 3 large eggs 6 tbsp milk
3 tbsp freeze-dried raspberries
125g butter, softened 250g icing sugar 1 tsp vanilla extract 1 tbsp milk
Method 1. Preheat the oven to 160C fan/180C/gas Mark 4. Butter a loaf tin and line with baking parchment. Leaving some excess paper hanging over the long sides makes it easier to lift the cake out after baking.
There’s something about meringues that is pretty magical. Maybe it’s the way that a gloopy, anaemic liquid can be transformed into light, frothy clouds with just a whisk. Or maybe it’s the glossy, bright white mixture that appears once sugar has been added. It could be the texture after cooking, a perfect combination of crisp, soft and chewy. It’s definitely the wonder that only two basic ingredients, egg whites and sugar, can result in such a delicious treat.
Meringues can fit in equally well at afternoon tea or a fancy dinner party, and look impressive, but are easy enough that children love to make them. When we were small we had a wonderful step-by-step children’s recipe book which included a recipe for pavlova that we loved to make. Aged about 10 my little sister gave it a go all by herself. Unfortunately, she misread teaspoon as tablespoon and the end result was, shall we say, a little vinegary in flavour. A valiant attempt, but an advert for reading a recipe thoroughly if ever there was one.
I’d been contemplating making flavoured meringues a lot recently, and with four unused egg whites leftover from the custard I made last Sunday this seemed like the chance. I think the flavours I chose work perfectly together: the sharpness of the fruit, the bitterness of the dark chocolate and the intense sweetness of the meringue itself. If you want to try other flavours then go for it, but be careful when adding anything wet or runny as this can affect the texture of the meringue (for example, in this recipe don’t add any extra zest than stated because of the orange oil that will come with it). If you want plain meringues then just leave the added extras out, they will be just a scrumptious in their natural form.
Ingredients (makes about 14 meringues, depending on size) 4 egg whites 115g caster sugar
115g icing sugar
Zest of 1 small orange 2 tbsp freeze dried raspberries
Orange and pink gel food colourings (optional, but this gives a stunning finish)
150g dark chocolate
Method 1. Preheat the oven to 120C/100C fan/Gas 1. Meringues require an extremely low oven temperature, which cooks them through without burning the outside and dries them out. 2. Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks. You are really going to want either an electric whisk or someone with tireless biceps to do this.
3. Add the caster sugar a spoon at a time, whisking constantly.
4. Add half the icing sugar, whisk, then add the other half and whisk. Pro tip: do not add the icing sugar while the blades are switched on. This results in unnecessary clouds of powdered sugar billowing around your kitchen and requires a lot of wiping down of surfaces, chairs and toasters.
5. You will now have a glossy, sticky mixture. Remove half of it into a different bowl and gently fold in the orange zest. Fold the freeze-dried raspberries through the remaining mixture.
6. Line 2 baking trays with parchment, not greaseproof, paper. Meringues will stick to greaseproof paper, but not baking parchment. I like to place a small blob of meringue mixture at each corner of the trays, so that the baking parchment has something to stick to and doesn’t slide around.
7. Use a large dessert spoon to create individual mounds of meringue mix on the trays. Dip the end of a skewer into the gel food colouring and swirl through the meringues to your hearts content.
8. Cook the meringues for approximately 1¼ hours, or until they are crisp on the outside. Turn the oven off, turn the meringues upside down and leave in the oven to cool. Pro tip: do not forget that you have meringues in the oven and switch it back on to cook something else. This will lead to burnt meringue (or pavlova, as it was in that case).
9. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of water. Make sure that the bowl does not touch the water otherwise the chocolate will get too hot.
10. Dip the base of the meringues into chocolate, allowing a few seconds for excess chocolate to drip off. Leave to dry upside down, again on baking parchment.
We had these after a delicious Thai meal that my mum cooked on Saturday. She made her ridiculously simple, but exquisite tasting caramelised oranges. (**BONUS RECIPE** Allow 1 orange per person. Peel and slice. Slowly heat 170g sugar with 140ml water, bring to the boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Add the juice of ½ a lemon and pour over the sliced oranges. Chill.) As I banged on about before, oranges are at their primes right now, and they went so well with the meringues.
I think that the raspberry meringues would also be amazing served with fresh mixed berries and a generous dollop of cream during the summertime.
Speaking of which, is it summer yet? I have such a hankering for pesto and salad niçoise and fresh strawberries and Pimms.