Surprise in 3, 2, 1...
The challenge this year has a theme: entrants are to create something with chocolate (naturally), meringue, and involving the colour pink. I have to admit, I had a different, pretty wild first idea that I've been working really hard on for almost a week. It didn't make the chop. It worked really well in separate stages... but I was heartbroken when all together, it failed miserably. But that's a story for another post: and I have something new to show for it, after all that.
After my initial failure, I decided that I really wanted to use Pink Lady apples, since they're my favourite apple (tying with Jazz apples, FYI). And they're pink. My problem was that once you peel them they kind of aren't pink any more. In fact, they're not pink at all. Which is when I decided to *make* them pink. With booze.
This is pink port- a sort of rosé port. I only discovered its existence when researching different rosé wines and their notes to pair with chocolate. I'm glad I did, because pairing rosé with chocolate is a pain. Although I'm apparently straying even now by pairing pink port with dark chocolate, because its berry notes are supposed to go with white. But in this case, with the meringue, I reckoned it would be way too sweet to have white chocolate thrown in. I was right. Besides, berries and fruits go with dark chocolate, too.
I made a Swiss meringue to create the baskets. You don't have to do the water bath method and you can just make a French meringue instead, but the stability of partially cooking the meringue with the Swiss method gives you a lot of leeway when it comes to piping. Italian meringue would probably be even more stable... but I don't have a stand mixer and am too much of a chicken to pour boiling hot sugar syrup by hand. Anyway, the choice is yours- but I find Swiss meringue the easiest (and least scary) to work with for piping jobs.
Ready? Let's go.
(Makes six individual baskets, and takes roughly four hours from start to finish).
Ingredients for (Swiss) Meringue Baskets:
-2 egg whites
-150g caster sugar
Ingredients for Poached Apples:
-400ml pink port
-4 Pink Lady apples (or any large crisp type)
-5tbsp caster sugar
Chocolate Sauce (the surprise!):
-50g dark 70% chocolate
-40ml hot water
Tempered Chocolate Disc 'Lids':
-100g dark 70% chocolate, melted and tempered
-Chocolate transfer sheet
Ingredients for Cream:
- 200ml double cream, whipped until soft peaks form
1) Preheat the oven to 100 degrees C and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Dust a little cornflour on top the stop it from sticking (or not, if you're using the magic reusable on-stick stuff).
2) First make a Swiss meringue: mix the egg whites and sugar together in a heatproof bowl, set atop a pan of just-simmering water (making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water), and whisk with an electric beater until thick, white and fluffy (the mixture should also be quite warm to touch, but not so hot that it's uncomfortable when you poke it). Whisk in the cornflour and vanilla, and take the bowl off the heat- use oven gloves to handle the bowl because it will be hot. Continue whisking until the bowl is cool enough to handle (so just a little warm): the meringue will become really thick.
3) Fill a large piping bag fitted with a wide round nozzle with the meringue mixture. Pipe six discs of about 7.5cm/ 3 inches in diameter, and then on the outer rim of each pipe two rings stacked on top of each other.
4) Pop in the oven and let dry for 2 hours, switch off the oven and leave very slightly ajar so the meringues cool slowly (avoiding cracks!)
5) While the meringues are in the oven, make the poached apples: core, skin and chop them into small-ish chunks (roughly 1cm cube). Place the chopped apples and port in a medium-sized saucepan and bring to a simmer, covered, until the apples are tender and a deep pink all the way through. (about half an hour). Remove the apples with a slotted spoon, add the sugar and simmer uncovered until you have a thin syrup (it'll thicken a lot more as it cools). Let the apples and the syrup cool to room temperature.
6) To create the chocolate sauce, melt the chocolate and stir in the hot water (no need to temper the chocolate, here). Let cool to thicken.
7) To make the chocolate decorations, melt and temper the chocolate (I do this by melting it bit by bit in the microwave at a medium heat until about 70% melted, then I let the rest melt in the residual heat). Spread thinly on your transfer sheet, making sure the rough cocoa butter side is facing up. Let set until tacky to the touch, stamp four lid-sized discs with a round biscuit cutter, and let set completely in the fridge (it won't take long, if you've properly tempered the chocolate- just five to 10 minutes in the fridge).
8) Assemble the cooled meringues: stick each one to the plate with a little port syrup to stop them from sliding about. Pipe a thin layer cream at the bottom, spoon a few teaspoonfuls of chocolate sauce in, and cover with cream.
9) Heap on the poached apples and drizzle a little syrup over. Finally, snap off your chocolate discs and settle them on top.