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Friday, September 16, 2016

Meringue Christmas Trees

Meringue Christmas Trees

These stunning Meringue Christmas Trees will be the highlight of your festive table! They are actually very easy to make and they are so impressive. Decorate with Strawberries, Kiwi Fruit and drizzle in Chocolate. You can add as much or as little as you like.

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  • 4 egg whites = ½ cup (125 ml)
  • 2 t (10 ml) lemon juice (use a fresh lemon)
  • 1 cup (220 g) castor sugar
  • baking paper
Christmas cheesecake filling:
  • ¾ cup (125 g) Christmas fruitcake mix
  • 6 green and 6 red glace cherries
  • ½ cup (125 ml) sherry or orange juice
  • 1 cup (250 ml) cold water
  • 3 T (45 ml) lemon juice
  • 1 x 250 g Ina Paarman's Lemon Cheesecake Mix
  • 1 cup (250 ml) fresh cream
To decorate the tree:
  • ± 500 g strawberries
  • 200 g blueberries
  • ± 10 stemmed cherries in syrup
  • strawberry leaves if available 

Adjust two oven racks, one just below and one above middle position. Preheat the oven to 140°C and line two large oven trays with baking paper. Mark out five circles of varying sizes, one of 25 cm, one of 20 cm, one of 15 cm, one of 10 cm and one of 5 cm.
Do not use a plastic mixing bowl. Glass, copper or stainless steel is best. Wipe the bowl out with the cut side of the lemon and then dry it with clean kitchen paper. Rinse your beaters in boiling water to make sure there is not a speck of grease on them.
Stand the bowl on a dishcloth. Beat the egg whites just until bubbles form. Add the lemon juice. Beat vigorously on high speed while turning the bowl with your one hand.
When the whites form peaks and the points of the peaks stand up and just bend over slightly when you lift the beaters, you can start adding the castor sugar tablespoon by tablespoon. Continue beating and adding the sugar slowly until the mixture becomes very thick, heavy and shiny.
Test a little of the mixture by rubbing it between two fingers. If you can feel sugar granules you still need to beat a little longer. Glue the corners of the paper to the pan with a little of the meringue mixture.
Fill the circles with meringue (see tip on how to keep centre open in meringue disk). Make a few extra little meringues and use the best one to crown the tree. Bake straight away for 1 hour at 140°C and then another 30 minutes at 120°C, switch off the oven and leave in the oven with the door closed to cool down completely.
The meringue will be piled up, from the biggest to the smallest disk, with the Cheesecake filling and strawberries in between.
Christmas cheesecake filling:
Soak the fruit in the sherry for an hour or microwave on high for 1 minute. Allow to cool. Measure the water into a medium size mixing bowl. Add lemon juice. Sprinkle the Cheesecake Mix over and beat until well blended. In a smaller mixing bowl, whip the cream until stiff. Using the same beaters, re-whip the cheesecake mixture for 1 minute until smooth. Gently fold the soaked fruits and whipped cream into the cheesecake mixture using a spatula or metal spoon. Stir until evenly blended. Leave to set in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before using it to sandwich the meringue layers together.

Chef's hints:

The base:
1 round foil and foam cake board ± 1 cm thick and 28 cm in diameter
1 sosatie stick
Make a hole in the exact centre of the board and force the blunt end of the sosatie stick into it.

To keep centres open in the meringue disks:
With a sawing motion cut the narrow ends of 2 ice cream cones, starting from the pointed end, into 1½ cm long pieces. Cut a small cross into the exact centre of each paper circle and push the piece of cut cone from the bottom up through the cross. This will keep a hole open when spreading the meringue on the paper in the circles.

To stop the cake from sagging upon standing:
Push 3-4 marshmallows into the Cheesecake Mixture quite close to the centre. They help to support the next layer. (You will need about 15 marshmallows).

To pre-prepare and freeze:
Omit the fruit. Layer the cake with Cheesecake layers and marshmallows as described. Cover straight away with clingfilm. Freeze for up to 2 weeks.

To serve and decorate frozen cake:
Remove cake from the freezer 30 minutes before needed. Whip one cup of cream until stiff with 1 teaspoon of dry gelatine powder mixed with 1 tablespoon of castor sugar. Pipe cream here and there to hold berries and cherries in place.

Other special occasion applications:
Decorate with fresh flowers for a wedding or birthday.

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