Every August, Bristol hosts the International Balloon Fiesta, and my friend Chui and I were waiting for the evening balloon ascent. Being very bad at waiting, we decided to head over to Brandon Hill, a little park just around the corner from where we both live. It’s not only the perfect location to watch hot air balloons go past but also one of the best spots for in-town foraging.
We were delighted when we almost instantly found some super-ripe blackberries. Unfortunately we weren’t dressed to wrestle the hill and thorns. A la Carrie Bradshaw and Samantha Jones, I wobbled along in my über-high platform wedges and Chui in her little strappy-sandals. Needless to say, not the best footwear for one of Bristol’s steepest hills! We still managed to quickly pick a respectable amount of these delicious little berries without twisting an ankle or lacerating our bare feet.
If you don’t have the time for picking, just get some from the shop but be warned, although yummy, they won’t possess the delicate, perfume-like aroma found in its wild cousin which beautifully unfolds in this recipe.
In any case, if you decide to pick your own, please consider:
a) bring a colander rather than plastic bag to collect the fruit (you will squash a lot of your berries otherwise)
b) take a stick to be able to pull down out-of-reach thorny branches which ALWAYS bear the biggest and most juicy fruits
c) bring baby wipes to clean your hands
d) (usually a lady problem) wear sturdy foot wear – Manolo’s, Jimmy’s and Louboutin’s won’t do, trust me!
As previously covered in my Blackberry Ice Cream recipe, August and September is the perfect time for blackberries. Make the most of them while they are still around. If you pick too many and don’t know what to do with them, just pop them in the freezer, ready for some delicious smoothies later in the year, when you crave summer flavours.
By the way, we never caught sight of any balloons and learned the next day the evening was too windy and the ascent cancelled…
Preparation Blackberry Meringue Kisses
Source: inspired by Valentine Warner’s Lavender Meringues
Preparation Time: 15-30 min
Baking Time: up to 2 hours, dependent on the size of the “kisses”
You will also need: an electric whisk and a piping bag with large round nozzle (or freezer bag if no piping bag at hand)
For the Vanilla Meringues
- 2 super fresh and preferably organic large egg whites
- 100g golden caster sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste (you can use 1-2 tsps of vanilla essence instead)
For the Blackberry Cream
- 150ml double cream
- 1 tbsp icing sugar
- 300g blackberries
1. Preheat the oven to 130ºC/110ºC fan oven and line a baking tray with grease proof paper.
2. Prepare a piping bag with a wide nozzle and place in a large glass or mug (it will be easier later to fill in the mix, unless you have a little helper who can hold the bag while it’s been filled up)
Tip: If you don’t have a piping bag, use a freezer bag instead, just fill it with the finished meringue mix, push down to one corner and twist the bag several times, stopping the mix to come out at the back when piping the kisses. Cut off the corner with some scissors.
3. Pop the egg whites in a large, clean bowl and whisk with an electric whisk until stiff peaks are formed and you can turn the bowl upside down without the egg whites falling out (1-2 minutes max, don’t overwhisk at this stage).
4. Add one tablespoon of sugar at a time and keep on mixing (on high) until firm, thick, and glossy peaks are formed. This can take 5-10 minutes . Add the vanilla at the end and briefly mix in.
5. Fill your piping bag with the meringue mix and pipe little meringues at the size of a 20p coin on the prepared baking tray. You can place them pretty close as they won’t increase much in size just slightly puff up.
6. Place the meringues in the oven and immediately turn down to 100ºC/80 ºC fan oven.
7. Bake for 1.5-2 hours until crisp but not coloured. Turn off the oven and leave the meringues in the oven until completely cooled down.
Tip: You can prepare the meringues several days in advance but must be stored in an air tight container to avoid them lose their crunch.
8. Just before serving, whisk the double cream and sugar by hand until firm, squash the blackberries with a fork and fold them into the cream.
Tip: I always over whisk double cream when using an electric whisk, hence prefer a hand whisk unless it’s whipping cream.
Tip: I like to squash up the blackberries before adding them to the cream as they will not only beautifully colour the cream but also stop blockages in the nozzle which can become very messy if squeezing too hard.
9. Fill another piping back with the blackberry cream mix and pipe a small amount onto the meringue base and sandwich the second on top.
10. Serve immediately
Tip: The kisses are ideally filled just before serving as the high fruit content and cream will soften the meringues if left for too long, losing their delicious crunch.
11. You can easily replace the blackberries with strawberries or rasberries, all equally delicious.
Please let me know how you get on. Until soon. x