I hope I didn’t jinx the good weather. It’s been pretty darn lovely for the last couple of weeks – to the point where we’d began feeling confident in venturing out of our snuggly cocoons and into the big wide world with, dare I say, renewed vigour and a spring in our step. Coat and gloves? Pah! There were even mutterings about barbecues. Not by me, I hasten to add, but I had heard them.
The landmark moment arrived for my husband and I when we ate al fresco for the first time this year – breakfast and lunch! And not even as an act of defiance; it was actually enjoyable – a pleasure! It felt a bit like holiday! (And you know how I like things to feel like holiday)
It’s slipped back a little now though and, despite today being the first day of spring, amnesia has set in. Eat outside; what were we thinking? It’s definitely chilly and clearly too soon to go sans central heating. Where did I put my thick jumpers? Tomorrow I’m travelling up to visit my brother with my dad and step-mum…in Newcastle! It’s a lovely city by all accounts and I’m really looking forward to spending the day with my lovely family, but Newcastle is certainly not the ideal destination for when the sun’s decided to do a disappearing act.
On reflection, it’s a shame that we didn’t take better advantage of our sunny Sunday last week. We failed to get swept along in the barbecue current and went our own sweet way, traversing afar in order to stock up on food and household essentials en mass, lest we have a nuclear holocaust or lose the use of our legs for the next few months. It was a pretty vital exercise, basically, and despite being several hundred pounds worse off and not being able to close a single cupboard in the house, I slept better that night. (I am nothing without a large pack of frozen raw prawns under my roof – I’m sure you’re the same).
Not only was Sunday a day for buying stock, it was also a day for making stock: chicken stock, to be exact. We indulged in a spit roast chicken for lunch – so very good – and so took the opportunity to dig out some frozen bones from the freezer (we needed the space) and get stocking! I’ve been the happy owner of a pressure cooker for a while now, so I can happily confirm that this took virtually no time or effort (insert smug face here), which left me free to play at Making Pudding!
I wanted to mark the occasion of feeling warm whilst being mindful of the decided chill that remains in the air – let’s not go crazy and start making lollies, people. I don’t know why I’m trying to justify my desire to make a pavlova – everyone loves them, don’t they? It just needed a more comforting ‘wintry’ tweak.
My initial idea was to make a blackcurrant meringue – a really cool purple meringue – and top it with custard and a sprinkle of crumble. I thought this would make an apt stepping-stone from a winter-to-spring-time pud. I’ve been wanting to try freeze dried fruits for a while and decided the dramatic colour of blackcurrants would make a beautiful as well as delicious meringue. However, online shopping would seem to be my only option and I wasn’t well enough prepared. Ah well, ‘fail to prepare’ and all that.
I was able to find freeze-dried raspberries, however, and, as I’m a sucker for a luscious raspberry, I thought I’d try the moisture-free un-luscious version. Not bad: tart and tangy with a nice concentrated flavour. So that’s how I came to make my raspberry crumble pavlova: I’ll admit I was disappointed in the decidedly underwhelming colour of the meringues, but the taste made up for it. The next time I make it I shall definitely amp up the freeze-dried fruit quota…better get on Amazon pronto!
Raspberry Meringue ingredients:
Makes enough for 6 small meringues or one large
- 3 large egg whites
- 300g caster sugar
- pinch of salt
- 10g freeze-dried raspberries, ground to a powder (this is what I used, but I would suggest perhaps doubling this amount)
- grated zest of one unwaxed lemon
- 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
- 1 tbsp rose syrup
Adapted from Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course
- 3 large egg yolks
- 275ml double cream
- 1 tsp cornflour
- 1 tbsp caster sugar
- 1 whole vanilla pod
- zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
Crumble topping ingredients:
- 50g plain flour
- 30g chilled unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
- 25g caster sugar
- 200g fresh raspberries
- Caster sugar for sprinkling on raspberries (optional, but preferable)
- Pomegranate molasses for drizzling
Each component needs to be cool before assembling, so it doesn’t really matter which order you make them in. I began with the meringues.
Preheat your oven to 150deg/130(Fan).
Whisk the egg whites in a spotlessly clean bowl (no grease, people) with a pinch of salt until white and voluminous. A free-standing mixer is best so that you can pootle about and prepare for the following steps. Next add the sugar a little at a time until it’s all incorporated then continue to whisk on a high setting for five minutes. The resulting meringue mixture needs to be very smooth with all of the sugar completely dissolved.
Remove the bowl and then fold in the remaining ingredients until thoroughly combined.
Spoon the meringue mixture onto a baking sheet lined with baking paper; you can either do six individual ‘rounds’ or a single large meringue. Use a small palette knife to smooth them into little nest shapes with light indentations so that it can hold the topping later.
Bake in the oven for approximately 1 hour, or until lightly coloured and firm to a light touch.
Leave to cool.
Add the cream to a medium sized saucepan and set on a low heat.
Split the vanilla pod in half lengthways and scrape the seeds into the cream along with the pod.
Turn the heat up a little and bring the cream to the boil, then turn the heat off and cover to let the vanilla infuse its flavour into the cream. Leave for at least 15 minutes before the next step. Remove the vanilla pod from the cream and heat it through a little if it has cooled too much.
Add the sugar and cornflour to the egg yolks in a medium sized mixing bowl and whisk briefly. Immediately add the cream mixture to the egg yolks and whisk until thoroughly combined.
Pour the custard mixture back into the saucepan and return to a low heat.
Keep stirring with a wooden spoon until it thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon. This will take between five and ten minutes, depending how high your heat is.
The cornflour will stop the custard from splitting, but if you keep the heat low there shouldn’t be a problem anyway…easy does it.
When thickened, remove from the heat and leave to cool.
Preheat your oven to 180deg/160(Fan).
Add the flour to a large mixing bowl then add the sugar and stir briefly.
Next add the chilled butter cubes to the flour and sugar and cut into the mixture with a blunt, round-edged knife.
When the butter has been worked in a little, start using the tips of your fingers to rub the butter into the mixture. Aim for the texture of chunky wet sand.
When you have achieved said beachy effect, tip the mixture onto a baking sheet lined with baking paper and spread it out thinly.
Bake for approximately ten minutes, until the edges start to turn golden. Removed from the oven and give it a little stir, then spread out thinly again and bake for a further five minutes, or so. You know best how your oven behaves, so just keep an eye out. You need to aim for a golden crunchy ‘crumble’ topping.
Remove from the oven to cool.
When each component has thoroughly cooled you can assemble your Raspberry Crumble Pavlovas. I tried mixing the custard with some lightly whipped double cream to further thicken the custard (see photos) but this was unnecessary.
Place a layer of fresh raspberries on top of the meringue then sprinkle with a caster sugar and drizzle generously with pomegranate molasses. This is an incredible ingredient, which adds a sweet yet tart flavour – I think it adds immeasurably to the final result.
Next dollop your thick vanilla custard on top of the fruit and sprinkle with as much crumble as possible. Have it spilling over the sides – go crazy! This is good.
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