Magical meringue tree with winter berry compote
Wow guests with a stunning dessert this Christmas: a tree of meringues jewelled with gold chocolate and ruby pomegranate seeds will ring the changes in style
- Serves: 10 persons
- 8egg whites (about 250g; you can use the leftover yolks to make custard for a trifle)
- about 500g caster sugar
- 50g slivered pistachios (available online, or use roughly chopped)
- 500g frozen mixed red berries
- 1orange, zested and juiced
- 50g icing sugar
- 600ml double cream
- 250ml mascarpone
- 100g icing sugar
- drop of rosewater or vanilla extract
- chocolate-covered malted milk balls
- edible gold lustre dust (optional)
- 75g pomegranate seeds
- 100g pink rose Turkish delight
- crystallised rose petals (optional)
- gold sprinkles (optional; we used round and star-shaped)
- edible gold leaf (optional)
- gold star for the top (see tip below)
Step 1Weigh the egg whites in a large heatproof bowl for a precise measurement, then add double the weight of sugar. Whisk to combine. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water, ensuring the base doesn’t touch the water. Whisk for 10 mins, or until no grains of sugar remain when you rub the mixture between your fingertips. If you have a cook’s thermometer, it should be 70-72C.
Step 2Transfer to a stand mixer and whisk on high speed until the meringue is completely cool and holding stiff peaks – up to 25 mins. Alternatively, use an electric whisk, but it will take a little longer.
Step 3Heat the oven to 140C/120C fan/gas 2 and line two large baking sheets with baking parchment. On one sheet, draw an 8cm, 10cm and 12cm circle using a pencil (you can use plates or biscuit cutters as templates). On the second, draw a 14cm and 16cm circle (see tip, below). Flip over the parchment sheets so the pencil marks are on the bottom. Spoon the meringue into a piping bag fitted with a large round nozzle. Holding the bag about 1cm away from the baking sheets, pipe blobs over the circles until they are completely covered, topping the bag up with more meringue as needed. Alternatively, spoon the meringue over the circles and smooth using the back of the spoon. Use the last bit of meringue to pipe a single meringue kiss on a corner of one of the sheets – it should be about the size of a plum. Sprinkle half the pistachios over the meringues, then bake for 50 mins.
Step 4Check the smaller meringue discs first to see if they are baked – when ready, they will easily lift off the parchment. Remove the sheet of smaller meringues from the oven, then bake the larger discs for another 30 mins. When the discs are all baked, cool completely on the baking sheets. Will keep in a cool, dry place for up to four days.
Step 5For the compote, cook the berries, orange zest and juice and the icing sugar in a saucepan over a medium heat for 5-10 mins until syrupy, being careful not to break the berries down too much – you want some chunks of fruit. Leave to cool completely, then keep chilled until needed. For the decorations, roll the malted milk balls in edible gold lustre dust, if using, until fully coated. Set aside until needed.
Step 6For the filling, tip the cream, mascarpone, icing sugar and rosewater into a large bowl and whisk to soft peaks. Put the largest meringue disc on a cake board or stand. Carefully spread some of the filling over, spoon a little of the compote on top, scatter with some of the remaining pistachios, a few pomegranate seeds and some chunks of Turkish delight. Repeat the layers, using the next smallest meringue disc each time, until you have a tree shape, finishing with the meringue kiss. Decorate with the malted milk balls, rose petals, sprinkles and gold leaf, if using. Top with the gold star and serve. Best eaten within an hour of assembling, but leftovers will keep chilled for up to two days.