Last August, I took a trip to England and Scotland with my mom, aunt, and sister, who was going to school there at the time. We each got to pick our top choice of what we wanted to do while we were there. My aunt wanted to explore Whitechapel, the area in which our ancestors lived, and my sister wanted to go to a special World War I exhibit up in York. My mom and I were both salivating over the prospect of seeing Highclere Castle (where Downton Abbey is filmed), but my other main priority was going to tea at Fortnum and Mason. I had only been to England once before when I was 10, but ever since then I’ve periodically daydreamed about the scones, clotted cream, finger sandwiches, pastries, and their Queen Anne tea.
^ Whitechapel ^
^ Highclere Castle ^
^ I was really into it. ^
For those of you who may not be familiar, Fortnum and Mason is a very high end department store in London that boasts a wide variety of specialty foods, such as INCREDIBLY DELICIOUS Belgian chocolates, candied fruits, nuts, marmalades, not to mention my favorite loose leaf tea. Admittedly, it has become a bit of a tourist attraction, but I’m sure locals still go there. Maybe. I don’t know. Normally I would care, but not in this case: I’m very attached.
^ The ground floor at Fortnum and Mason ^
^ A fraction of the loose tea selection ^
^ Sugar mice ^
^ I love this blue far more than Tiffany blue ^
^ Chocolate fish and chips!! C’mon. ^
^ Candied fruit, candied veggies ^
Anyhow, we did go to Fortnum and Mason on this trip and had a delicious, albeit, humongous tea (we ate at lunchtime and couldn’t eat dinner later). But it wasn’t enough to have teatime only once while in England, so once we arrived in York, which is a city further north than London and much more quaint, we promptly met for tea once again. This time though, we went to Betty’s Cafe Tea Rooms, another renowned place to have tea in the UK. Fortnum and Mason will always have my heart for sentimental reasons, but Betty’s had a wonderful spread, including these little meringue treats with whipped cream, lemon curd, and dark chocolate webbing on top.
^ Betty’s ^
^ Teatime! Wonderful Ginger Tisane tea. ^
^ The meringue treat I speak of is on the right ^
Since I catered my mom’s birthday party and she wanted it to be a tea, I decided to try my hand at making these treats. Mine came out much more heavy handed and far less precise than the original, but they were so good. So good, in fact, that I started fist pumping when I tried one. Thankfully I hadn’t done that while eating the original in England.
I didn’t know what to call them, so my family friend Joann suggested we call them Fascinators, since they hail from England and look like the fancy hats that go by that moniker.
Original Meringue Recipe: http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/meringue-nests
Original Gelatinized Whipped Cream Recipe: http://www.ucook.com/Recipes/RecipeFull.aspx?RecipeID=23549
3 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp unflavored gelatin
1 tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp confectioners sugar
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted
About 3 tbsp jarred lemon curd (I used Wilkin and Sons), room temperature
Berries, if desired
Place egg whites in a large bowl; let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Beat the egg whites, vanilla and cream of tartar on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, on high until stiff peaks form.
Drop meringue into eight or nine mounds on parchment paper lined baking sheet. They don’t spread, so they can be close together but not touching. Smooth them out so that they look like sand dollars, and are almost flat on top.
Bake at 275° for 45-50 minutes or until set and dry. Turn off oven and do not open door; leave meringues in oven for 1 hour. Let cool, and set aside.
Dissolve gelatin in water and heat till it is thoroughly melted. Blend thoroughly with the cream just before it is whipped to your taste. This will give the piped cream a certain stability, although it changes the texture slightly. Make sure the gelatin is fulling dissolved before adding to the cream, or you’ll have chunks! No one likes chunky whipped cream! Once the gelatin and cream are blended, and very soft peaks form, add the vanilla and sugar. Continue blending until slightly stiff peaks form (but not nearly as stiff as the meringue peaks).
Line a clean baking sheet with wax paper. Dip a regular metal spoon and dip it in the melted chocolate. Don’t fill the spoon too much, or the webbing will come out heavier on one side than on the other. Pick up the spoon out of the chocolate, and dangle it over the wax sheet. Move it in a circle about the size of the meringues you made, if not a little bit smaller, and then zig zag the spoon back and forth over the circle so that there is a waffle-like design. It doesn’t have to be perfect, so don’t freak out if you don’t think yours looks right. Also, many people haven’t had these before, so they won’t know the difference! Once you’ve made about 10 of these (make an extra or two in case one breaks or you want to nibble on one), put the baking sheet they’re on into the refrigerator for at least an hour.
Once the meringues have cooled, use two regular metal spoons to place a dollop of whipped cream on each meringue. I like to put them slightly off center, but dollop wherever your heart desires. Next, take the room temperature lemon curd, a teaspoon at a time, and dash it across each meringue, sort of how you made the chocolate webbing. It’s important that the curd is at room temperature so that it spreads evenly. Now you can take your chocolate out of the fridge! Place one web on top of each meringue. Press it down into the whipped cream slightly, being careful not to break the webbing. Add a berry to the side of each treat, if desired.