I know it’s confusing but for my American readers Mother’s Day was two weekends ago, so naturally I had to come up with something to entertain both Erik’s and my Mothers.
Surprisingly, considering how much sugar is in this confection this was not too sweet. The whole dish was prepared the day before leaving only the fresh cream to whip into submission – leaving a simple assembly job on the day.
Put the sugar and into a regular saucepan (keep clear of non-stick ones as they can lead to the sugar re-crystallizing), put it onto a low to medium heat until the sugar melts. You can add a tablespoon of water to help it along; either with or without the added water DO NOT STIR once the pan is on the heat – the sugar will clump into a crystal-clogged hell! Keep heating gently until all the sugar is melted – still on a gentle heat; you want to melt it not turn it into a dark caramel. Drop the hazelnuts into the melted sugar and stir to combine.
Tip the praline onto a sugar mat or baking parchment spread out and allow to cool. Once cooled snap the large dollop onto smaller pieces and pop them into a blender and grind into small gravel pieces. Do not keep on grinding or you’ll end up with dust, we want a bit of texture here. Then put this aside.
For The Meringue
Starting with a totally clean mixing bowl and mixer blades, straight from the dishwasher – do not touch the mixer blades as you put them into the mixer. The enemy of meringue is grease and if your fingers are great then this will stop the egg whites from whipping up, you can run a little lemon juice onto kitchen paper and wipe them clean if you are not sure!
Turn on the whisk and beat the egg whites until the reach white pillowey clouds, then with the beaters running at full speed drizzle the hot sugar into the egg whites and keep mixing (its much easier on a stand mixer). Keep mixing until the side of the mixing bowl is no longer hot. Tip in half of the ground praline and fold in.
Take a baking tray and a matching piece of baking parchment, to make it so much easier to work with add a dot of meringue to each corner of the baking tray and use this as glue to hole the paper in place. Trust me you’ll thank me in the end!
Tip the mixture onto the baking parchment and smooth out to a circle, as you spread this out make a well in the middle so that you end up with a flat centre and a wall around the edge.
Bake oven on at 120C /100C Fan/250F/Gas Half for 90 minutes. Keep an eye on this, we are not looking for any colour, in fact we are not really cooking this more like drying it out. Once it is cooked turn the oven off and leave the oven open a crack until the oven is totally cold. My oven door snaps shut so I wedge a wooden spoon in the door to keep it open.
All of this can be done in advance – up to 3 days ahead. You will need to keep the meringue in an airtight tin and the praline in a separate airtight container.
To Finish Tis Off
When you are ready to serve whip the cream until just whisked. You want to get to a luscious whisked stage. We want lusciousness, but a texture that will hold on the mixer blades. If you keep whisking you’ll get a dry texture or if you go all the way you’ll get butter (ask Erik about that one!).
Slather the cream onto the meringue nest. Add a couple of large spoons of caramel sauce, dollop this onto the cream and swirl it through to give a ripple effect. I use a caramel ice cream sauce from Lakeland, but all the supermarkets have one or more versions.
Chop two bananas up into slices and lay the slices onto the cream finishing off with the remaining praline. Serve within the next hour or two make sure that you save the biggest slice for yourself as it is uber-tasty!