As I tackle yet another recipe from Guardian Feast, it strikes me just how many riffs there are on the same ingredients – and how still they keep coming. Surely there can’t be many more combinations of ingredients to explore and write about?
This thought led The Husband to reminisce about a teenage angst he claims to have had. Apparently he worried that the ‘last possible permutations of all the melodies’ would be used up in the 60s. That every tune would be derivative. Isn’t everything basically derivative? I asked in my usual brutal, unromantic way.
Yotam Ottolenghi’s soft amaretti with coffee sauce and whipped cream from Guardian Feast Issue No.186 is a cross between deconstructed cookie dough ice cream and a caffeine-rich affogato.
The recipe is simple enough – whisking, whipping and rolling (stop it!). I had an issue with my amaretti dough which was so loose it was impossible to shape into the required 18 x 28g balls. Yotam had no guidance for me. I winged it and thickened the dough with a goodly extra serving of ground almonds.
There are real touches of genius in this recipe. The smattering of salt at every stage gives a wonderful ting in the eating. The teaspoon of lemon zest hums gently in the background. The coffee sauce delivers a rich, heady bass note. Overall, the dish harmonises to create a reet posh dinner party pud vibe.
And there we have it: perhaps there’s always a new melody to be found within an established set of ingredients. I’ll let The Husband know. I’m sure he’ll appreciate it.
I’m inexorably drawn to any riff on the egg custard tart format: I adore pastel de nata and loved Rachel Roddy’s budini di riso fiorentini (little rice pudding tarts) which I cooked back in January from Guardian Feast Issue No.158. Plus, who doesn’t love an affogato? Vanilla ice cream literally ‘drowned’ in a shot of hot black coffee – sometimes served with a crunchy crumble of amaretti biscuit.
So, Yotam Ottolenghi’s baked custard affogato, meringue brittle was a no brainer for me to try to recreate from Feast Issue No.169.
As regular readers will know, I’m celebrating my love of the food columns and supplements in The Guardian by trying to cook at least one recipe from each issue of Guardian Feast in 2021. Find out a bit more about that here.
Even as I put this dish together, I was thinking: Wow, Yotam, that’s a lot of sugar. However, in the context of bold, bitter espresso shot, the sugar levels make total sense.
On to the making. Yotam says it will take 15 mins prep: I’m not sure how many hands he has, but whisking egg custard (separating five yolks and whites takes me about five mins!), toasting and blitzing nuts, whizzing egg whites with sugar… It took me a little longer! Having said that, the cooking time includes 20 minutes of meringue cooling so, pro rata, I guess from prep to finish probably took about an hour and ten. Don’t forget to factor in three hours of fridge time for the baked egg custard.
Each element is perfect – caramelly vanilla egg custard, sweet crunchy nutty meringue and a bitter coffee kick.
I didn’t have full fat milk, so I used 300g of double cream (instead of 200g) and 100g of semi skimmed – don’t know if that’s an accepted replacement ratio but it worked fine.
I’m so glad Yotam warned me that ‘the custard will look very curdled’ when it’s taken out of the oven. It’s a great heads up. Take a look at the scramble below! That’s the kind of thing to make you cry if you’re not forewarned.
For the meringue brittle, I used almonds instead of hazelnuts (eldest daughter allergy) – and we all agreed peanuts would probably be a good fit too. Watch the measurements of the baking tray for the meringue spread (Yotam suggests 39cm x 30 cm). Actually, focus on the depth of meringue spread – about three millimetres, I’d say. My first batch of brittle was too thick to be ‘brittle’ (chewy shape shifter rather than shard). Fortunately, I still had three whites to play with from the five separated eggs and used those to better effect.
I started the dish late in the day and left the baked custard in the fridge overnight. We looked forward to Thursday morning coffee break with more fervour than usual. Yotam says there’s enough to serve four – we reckon its sweetness and intensity would certainly stretch to six. The Husband declared: ‘It’s delicious. Each element is perfect – caramelly vanilla egg custard, sweet crunchy nutty meringue and a bitter coffee kick.’
The eldest and youngest daughters agreed it would make a great dinner party pud but with a shot of decaf – I suggested a splash of brandy too. No one disagreed. The sugar hit was perhaps a tad vicious for 11am – but we’ve managed to continue picking at the leftover meringue (and my original chewy blobs) throughout the day. Thank goodness I have a dentist appointment in May!