When spring approaches – the air is lighter, the days longer, Easter is lovely on the horizon – pudding immediately springs to mind. And after recent years steeped in something nameless, I think it’s time for an extravagance: a tumbler of meringues studded with hazelnuts, layered with pears, bronzed in caramel, infused with lemon and vanilla and topped with copious amounts of cream, pudding and ice cream. It will make a great showing at a table with good people.
Hazelnut meringue with caramelized pears
preparation 20 minutes
Cook 1 hour 10 minutes
Cool 2 hrs +
For the meringue
130 g peeled hazelnuts
10 egg whites
500g powdered sugardivided into two bowls
For the pears
4 weird pears, peeled, cored and quartered
juice of 1 lemon
1 vanilla beanSplit and seeds scraped out
100 g powdered sugar
For the caramel syrup
120g powdered sugar
75 ml water
For the cinnamon cream
1 cinnamon stick
250ml whole milk
4 egg yolks
50 g powdered sugar
50ml double cream
100ml double creamlightly whipped
Vanilla Ice Cream
Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven)/350°F/gas mark 4 and line two baking trays with baking paper. Place the nuts on a tray, toast them for 8 to 10 minutes until golden brown, then transfer to a clean cloth and rub to remove the shells. Coarsely grind or chop the nuts and set aside 20g for later.
In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff, then beat in half the sugar, stirring constantly, until stiff peaks form again. Fold in the remaining sugar and remaining 110g chopped nuts, then pour half the mixture onto each tray and divide into two 28cm circles. Place in hot oven and immediately lower temperature to 120C (110C fan) / 250F / Gas low. Bake for one hour until lightly golden, then remove and allow to cool completely. Don’t worry about cracks – they’ll be covered when you arrange the meringues.
Meanwhile, place the pears and lemon juice in a wide bowl, toss to coat, then stir in the vanilla bean and pulp.
Prepare a wide dish next to the stove. Place a wide-bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle in the sugar and wrap the handle in a cloth and shake the pan until the sugar evenly coats the bottom; Keep shaking while it changes color. Carefully place the pears in, then shake gently again. Cook, stirring gently, until evenly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Tip the pears and vanilla bean into the waiting bowl, allow to cool, then remove the vanilla bean. (Rinse, then let dry and some time later steep in a jar of sugar to make vanilla sugar.)
Heat the sugar for the syrup in a pan over medium heat. Gently agitate the pan until it’s bubbling around the edges, then gently toss until it’s an even caramel color. As soon as an even caramel appears, turn off the heat, put on a stand, retire a little and cover your hand with a cloth and pour 75 ml of water; stand back until bubbling stops, then bubble gently for a minute until a syrup forms. Let cool, then pour into a small pitcher.
For the cream, put the cinnamon and milk in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Beat the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl until fluffy. Remove the cinnamon stick, then slowly stir the poured milk into the egg yolks. Pour back into the pan, return to the stove and stir until the pudding thickens but does not boil. Remove from the heat, stir in the cream, then cover and refrigerate.
To assemble the pudding, carefully remove the cooled meringues from the parchment paper and transfer to a plate wider than the meringue. Top with half the whipped cream, followed by two-thirds of the pears. Pour two thirds of the syrup on top and add a scoop of ice cream. Cover with the second meringue, then repeat the layers, this time finishing with the custard cream so it runs between the fruit and cream and gathers around the meringue. Sprinkle with the reserved 20g hazelnuts, dust with icing sugar and serve.