From time to time I recall a recipe which we really enjoyed some while ago and which I promised we would eat again, but then completely forgot. This one has been re-discovered after about 20 years but I know I will make it again very much sooner this time. I served it as the dessert at my father’s birthday Sunday lunch.
The recipe comes from an early Delia Smith paperback book, Delia Smith’s Book of Cakes – 1977. (This has been re-published but have no idea whether the recipes contained within are exactly the same: the recipe is also included in the original Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course which comes from the same decade.) Delia’s original recipes called this Apricot Hazelnut Meringue Cake which to me implies a tea-time item but, as it also makes a great dessert at a main meal when entertaining, I feel it deserves to be called a Gateau and have renamed it accordingly! My only reservation is that, as with quite a few of Delia Smith’s early recipes, the portion sizes suggested are not particularly generous (this was supposed to be for 6 people but, unless you are serving it as part of a large or very rich meal, 5 is probably more accurate). Next time I make this, especially if serving 6, I will probably make it with four egg whites and adjust most of the other ingredients, although the amount of cream would I think still be enough. You also need to use slightly larger tins, of course. Also, for the meringue circles, I found that 20 minutes baking was ample at 190oC in my fan oven. If using a Fan oven I suggest the temperature be reduced to 180oC and the baking time be increased a little, but even then the up to 40 minutes suggested by Delia seems a little long. As ovens differ it is best to check it regularly so it does not brown too darkly. I used Elmlea Whipping Cream, a reduced fat product. (If you buy Elmlea Double then choose the 55% less fat version.) I cut a 5cm x 1cm strip of peel from the orange after I had peeled it and, to prevent a bitter taste, pared off as much pith as possible. Arrowroot, powdered starch from the edible root of a West Indian plant, has decreased in popularity in recent years but is still easily found in supermarkets. It is particularly useful for thickening sauces in desserts giving a translucent finish as it thickens, rather than the cloudy finish of cornflour thickened sauces. Next time I will probably buy skinned hazelnuts – or skin them myself – as they give a prettier finish.
Apricot Hazelnut Meringue Gateau
3 large egg whites
175g/6oz caster sugar
75g/3oz ground hazelnuts
275ml/½ pint double cream or whipping cream (I used Elmlea half fat)
a few whole toasted hazelnuts
110g/4oz dried apricots (soaked overnight)
the juice of a small orange
Strip of orange peel
1cm/½inch cinnamon stick
1tbsp light brown sugar
1. Pre-heat oven to Gas 4/375oF/190oC – 180o if Fan oven
2. Prepare two 7inch/18cm sandwich tins with a light layer of sunflower oil and then line with silicone paper (or oiled greaseproof paper).
3. Separate the eggs (reserving the yolks for another recipe) and whisk the egg whites in a large bowl until they form stiff peaks. Whisk in the caster sugar about 1oz at a time and then, with a metal spoon, fold in the ground hazelnuts.
4. Divide the mixture equally between the two lined tins, smoothing out to the edges as evenly as possible and bake on the centre shelf of the oven for 20-30minutes
5. Remove from the oven and cool in their tins for about 30minutes before turning out.
When cool loosen round the edges and gently remove from the tins. Peel away the paper and place on a wire rack. (When completely cold they can be stored in a tin or box until it is time for the gateau is assembled.)
6. For the filling, drain the soaked apricots in a bowl. You can either leave them whole or slightly chop them as I did. Place them in a small saucepan with 2 tablespoons of their soaking water, the orange juice and peel, cinnamon stick and brown sugar. Simmer gently with the lid on the pan for 10-15minutes. Mix the arrowroot in a small jug with a little cold water, gradually introduce the hot liquid from the apricot/orange mixture. Return this to the saucepan, stirring over a low heat until the mixture has thickened. Remove the pan from the heat and leave until the mixture is absolutely cold. (Once cold this can be stored in the fridge until it is time for the gateau is assembled.)
7. Ideally about 2 hours before serving, although this time can be shorter, whip the cream. Toast the hazelnuts in a hot oven, if available, or under the grill. (Be careful as they burn quickly – 5minutes should be enough.) Carefully spread the cold apricot mixture over one circle of the meringue, followed by half the whipped cream. Place the second meringue circle on top and spread over the remaining whipped cream. Decorate around the edge wit the toasted hazelnuts.