Layers of crisp brown sugar and almond meringue nestle between clouds of whipped honey cream, fresh dates and soft dried figs, as warm honey cascades down the sides of this beastly yet elegant mountain of texture, colour and soulful flavour. And it’s easy. I’m all for easy recipes lately. Life is flying by way too fast, but I’m still determined to bake wherever I can. So that means I’m turning to recipes that can be planned ahead, prepared in sections and offer a low flop-risk. So voila!
The Australian winter is upon as, as are mid-semester exams. I’ve retired to my desk, fire roaring in the kitchen, rain pattering outside, wind whispering through the gums and kettle boiling every hour for another mug of motivation. I love this time of year, it allows me to fully indulge in wistful music, long wintry walks and early nights curled up in bed for a good ponder of life’s mysteries. Actually… I’ll admit I’m being slightly optimistic; I won’t last long before I start itching for the sun! But for now, I love that the hills are turning green again.
I made this torte for my Grandma. We just celebrated her 80th birthday, and as I watched her blow out the candles, I realised with a new clarity that she has experienced 80 years of surprises, achievements, doubts, losses, laughs, tears, tribulations, children, grandchildren and a whole lot of love. My Grandma is an incredibly gracious and thoughtful woman, and she carries all these experiences in her heart. But she shares these stories with me, and as I weave my way through adulthood I’m watching and learning from her. She is showing me what it means to be a woman who is certain in her sense of self, but compassionate, gentle and completely giving in her relationships. Grandma, you’re a legend and I love you.
Preparation Time: 1.5 hours
Total Time: 7 hours, or;
-Day before serving: 1 hour preparation + 2 hours cooking + overnight cooling
-Day of serving: 30 minutes preparation + 2 hours refrigeration
Brown Sugar and Almond Meringue
- 100 g almonds
- 10 large egg whites, at room temperature (300 g)
- 550 g raw caster sugar
- 1 L thick cream (the dollop kind)
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 400 g fresh dates, pits removed, thinly sliced
- 200 g soft dried figs, stalks cut off, thinly sliced
- 4 fresh figs
- 100 mL honey
Brown Sugar and Almond Meringue
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F fan forced. On a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper, roast the almonds for 10-15 minutes, until slightly browned and aromatic. Allow to cool slightly before blitzing in a food processor to a rough crumb.
- Trace 4 x 28cm/11 inch circles on baking paper, and place them on 4 x separate oven trays. If you can’t fit 4 trays in your oven, just use 3 layers. Reduce the oven temperature to 110°C/230°F fan forced. Wipe out the bowl of your mixer. Pour in the egg whites, and whisk on low speed for 2 minutes until small bubbles form. Turn the whisker up to medium/high speed, and whisk for 5-8 minutes until very stiff peaks form. You should be able to hold up the whisker and see that the meringue does not move or flop at all.
- With the whisker still going at medium/high speed, gradually add the sugar spoonful at a time, whisking well between each addition to ensure sugar dissolves.
- Once all sugar is incorporated, continue to whisk for another 5-7 minutes until the sugar is dissolved. Test this by rubbing a bit of meringue between your thumb and forefinger. If it feels gritty, keep whisking until smooth and glossy.
- Use a large metal spoon to very gently fold the almonds through the meringue. Spoon 1/3 of the mix onto each tray, and work quickly and gently to spread the meringue to a rough circle using an offset spatula or rubber spatula. Try not to overwork the meringue.
- Bake for 2 -2.5 hours, depending on your oven, until the meringues appear crisp and dry. Use the ‘tap test’ to check that the meringues sound hollow by gently tapping one against the tray, and once you’re satisfied, turn off the oven and open the door slightly, allowing the meringues to cool slowly in the oven for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk the cream and honey on medium speed for a couple of minutes until stiff peaks form.
- Secure the first meringue disk on your serving plate using a spoonful of cream, and top with one quarter of the cream. Spread the cream to the edges of the disk and sprinkle with one third of the dates and figs.
- Place the second meringue disk atop the filling, and repeat the process until you get to the last disk. Top this disk with cream and quartered fresh figs.
- Refrigerate the torte for at least 1 hour, until slightly soft. Just before serving, warm the honey over low heat or in the microwave, and drizzle generously over the torte. Slice with a sharp knife and serve.
The torte will keep covered and refrigerated for up to 4 days, but is best served the day of or the day after assembly.