06 February 2012

Beerenschaumschnitten (?) Gesundheit!! (Berry Meringue Slices)



It was coming from the dark recesses of my cookbook cupboard.  Had to be The Book.  It's been a while.  I've been knee-deep in hearts and testing out bite-sized bites with no time for my usual Central Europe baking excursions. 

Or Berry Meringue Slices.

What could be better than cake, blueberries and meringue?  Sold and Sold.

Basically these slices are lemon-scented butter cakes topped with fresh blueberries blanketed with lightly toasted and billowy meringue.  Terrific for this spring-like "winter" we're having.  Besides, I had cute little lemons, our first, from my little lemon tree, another first, that needed a special place to make their debut.

I'm so proud of these lemons.

See, this little lemon tree used to live with a celebrity along with a few of its siblings, but things weren't really working out.  Leaves were dropping from every tree in this tree family which made the celebrity sad.  Soon the celebrity got other ideas for his yard so he split up the lemon clan and as luck would have it, a friend brought one of the sad little trees to us.

We tried to nurse it back to health, but it just got more and more limp.  We used a beat-up old skateboard to move the 2-ton potted citrus across our lawn to what we hoped would be a better spot.  It wasn't.  I thought it was a goner.  I was going to throw it away if I could only figure out how to get it into the trash.  That's when I decided to use the skateboard again to try one last spot and I pruned the hell out of it just so it wouldn't look so...dead (the dead-look made me sad too!).

It grew!?  I couldn't believe it.  Then it fruited.

We now have 6 (well, 4 now) of the cutest little lemons on this tree I call, Lazarus.  May not seem like much, but we also have a 3 1/2 foot tall orange tree that hasn't grown in height in the 3 years we've lived here and we got all of 2 oranges from it this year.  They were the size of softballs, but 2???  Come on!!

The moral of the story?  I don't know.  I'm just happy to have lemons hanging on a tree!

Back to the Berry Meringue Slices. 

Apparently, these can be found at Cafe Diglas in Vienna.  When I was there last year all that seemed to be on the menu was a variety of poppy seed pastries.  I wish there had been something creamy and light and full of blueberries!

Cafe Diglas' Poppy Pastry Spread

What Happened:
I decided that Cody and I didn't really need 16 slices of delicious cake in the house tempting us, so I cut the recipe in half.  Unless you're having a big party or you're the Duggars, maybe this would work for you too?

It's really quick and simple to put together.  The whole thing came together in under an hour including the post-bake cooling.  Aside from the berries, it's a total pantry recipe.  And you're not locked into blueberries either--raspberries, strawberries, blackberries--I even think peaches or apricots in season would be tasty.

Things I Would Change:
  • I already mentioned only making half the original recipe so that would be my first edit.
  • I also added parchment to the baking pan so the cake could be removed as a whole.  Rick Rodgers recommends serving from the pan and I'm a self-confessed snob about these things so I made that change too.
    So sexy--and a little too sweet
  • Sweetness--when I read the recipe the amount of sugar called for in the meringue struck me as being a lot.  I was right.  I don't want sugar to mask the flavor of the fruit or the lemony-cake and that's kinda what happened.  When I checked out other recipes  for meringue I discovered that I should have followed my instinct.  The most sugar I found in a soft meringue like this one that called for 3 egg whites was 1/4 cup.  This recipe called for 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon!  I also reduced the powdered sugar used on the blueberries too.  The powdered sugar is primarily there to help the meringue stick to the berries--the cornstarch is what does it.  You could use flour, but you run the risk (albeit small) of getting a bitter taste from any flour that goes unabsorbed.  The sweetness of the powdered sugar solves that, but no need to use more than what will coat.
  • Increase the amount of berries.  I believe every inch of cake should be covered in berries before the meringue is added and 1 pint wasn't enough to do the job so I upped the amount to 2 cups.  Use your judgement--how many berries do I need to cover an 8x8 cake and go with that.

    The Result:
    It was a little sweet, but so pretty and light and satisfying.  And versatile.

    After his second bite, Cody waxed poetic, complete with Victorianesque hand gestures, about the uniqueness of the combination of cake with meringue!  I couldn't help but laugh.  I've created a monster food critic!

    It's a great dessert--easy, quick and fancy-ish.  AAAND (I know you were waiting for this one) the fruit is not cooked!!

    I'm toying with baking it in muffin tins or mini cheesecake molds to get individual servings that come out picture perfect.

    This one is a keeper.

    Beerenschaumschnitten (Berry Meringue Slices)
    adapted from Kaffeehaus by Rick Rodgers
    makes 6 slices

    7 T                  butter, softened
    ½ c                 sugar
    ½ c + 3T         flour
    ¾ t                  baking powder
    pinch              salt
    2                     eggs
    ½ t                  vanilla
    1 T                  lemon juice
    1 t                   lemon zest

    3                     egg whites, room temperature
    ¼ c                 sugar
    2 c                  fresh blueberries
    1 T                  powdered sugar

    Preheat oven to 350°F.

    Lightly grease an 8x8 cake pan and line with parchment folding the long ends over the outside of the pan so they stay out of the batter when baking.

    Beat the butter in the bowl of a standing mixer until smooth.  Add the sugar and beat until light in color, about 3 minutes.  Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in another bowl and set aside.

    When the butter and sugar mixture is ready, add the eggs one at a time, then the eggs, making sure to beat well between each addition.  On low speed add the dry mix in two additions.  Beat in the lemon juice and zest.

    Spread the batter evenly in the pan and tap the pan on the counter a couple of times to make sure the air bubble rise to the surface.  Bake for 17-20 minutes until golden and the top springs back when touched.  Remove from the oven and set on a cooling rack while making the meringue.

    Increase the oven temperature to 450°F.

    Beat the egg whites in a large bowl until they form soft peaks.  Gradually add the granulated sugar until the whites are stiff and shiny.  Toss the blueberries and powdered sugar in a bowl.  Spread the berries in a single layer over the cake, then cover with meringue.

    Bake until the meringue is lightly tipped with brown, 3 to 5 minutes.  Cool completely.  To serve, cut into 6 rectangles with a sharp knife dipped in water.  Refrigerate to store, but serve at room temperature.

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