Bay (Lauris nobilis) also known as Sweet bay, Sweet laurel, Bay laurel and Apollo’s bay leaf has got to be one of my all time favourite culinary herbs. It has wonderfully pungent aromatic scented leaves; I can’t pass by a bay tree without pulling off a couple of the leaves, crumpling them up in my hand and giving them a good old sniff.
Sweet bay is an evergreen and the leaves can be picked all year round. It can be successfully grown in pots but needs to be regularly watered, especially in the summer months to prevent the roots from drying out. If left to grow into a shrub like tree it can reach a height of more than 10 metres.
Untrimmed bay can become quite straggly, so its good to give it a regular prune to control the shape and height. Pruning will also encourage new growth. The freshly picked succulent leaves of the Sweet bay are used to make these deliciously scented and unique tasting meringues. Fresh Sweet bay and chocolate make a great partnership!
- 16-20 Fresh bay leaves, snip away the stem and woody central vein
- 200g granulated sugar
- 3 large free range egg whites (room temperature)
- 2 heaped tbsp cocoa powder, sifted
- pinch of salt
- Preheat the oven to 180℃ / gas mark 4
- Put the bay leaves and sugar into a food processor and whizz until the bay leaves turn into tiny green flecks in amongst the sugar.
- Spoon the sugar mixture into a heatproof bowl and put into the oven for 6- 7 minutes (don't allow the sugar to start melting/browning on the edges of the bowl). Warming the sugar helps it to dissolve quickly when whisked with the frothy egg whites. Turn down the oven temperature to 110℃ / gas mark ¼
- Whisk the egg whites in a very clean stainless steel/copper bowl with a pinch of salt to the soft peak stage using a hand whisk or electric whisk.
- Fork through the warmed sugar to break up any clumps, add it all to the whisked egg whites and carry on whisking until the meringue mixture is glossy and thick.
- Sieve the cocoa powder into a small bowl.
- Fold the cocoa powder through the thick meringue mixture. Its best not to combine the cocoa and meringue mixture completely, giving you that ripple/marbling effect.
- Line a flat baking tray with baking parchment and spoon out 6 even sized mounds of the thick meringue mixture, leaving space in-between each. If at this stage your meringue mixture is not looking very rippled, sprinkle a little extra cocoa powder on each and swirl it around with a fork.
- Put the meringues into the now cooled oven and bake slowly for approximately 1½ to 2 hours, dependant on the size of the meringues, you could make 4 really big ones or 8 small ones. You want them to be crisp on the outside and still a little soft in the middle.
- Take the meringues out of the oven and allow them to cool on the baking tray (they are delicious served warm too).
- The meringues will store in an airtight container for up to a week.
Free range eggs from down the lane.
Using a pair of scissors to cut away the stalk and the woody central vein of each bay leaf.
Blitzing the granulated sugar and bay leaves in a food processor until the bay leaves become tiny green flecks and the granulated sugar starts to resemble the same texture as caster sugar.
Whisking the egg whites to the soft peak stage using a very clean stainless steel mixing bowl and large metal whisk. If you don’t fancy a work out use an electric hand whisk or food mixer.
The sugar gets warmed in a medium hot oven and after forked through to break up any lumps. This helps the sugar to dissolve into the egg whites quickly in the final whisking stage and it also helps to give you that wonderful glossy meringue mixture and a perfect crispy outside when cooked.
Whisking the egg white and sugar mixture until the meringue mixture becomes beautifully glossy and stiff (stiff enough to keep its shape on a spoon). A great way to test that the mixture is ready is to rub a little bit of the mixture between your fingers. It should feel completely smooth and without any trace of the sugar granules. If you can still feel the sugar between your fingers keep whisking and repeat the finger rub test.
Rubbing the cocoa through a fine sieve with the back of the spoon helps to remove any lumps.
Folding the sieved cocoa powder through the glossy and thick meringue mixture with a rubber spatula.
Spooning the bay and chocolate meringue mixture onto a lined baking tray with a large metal spoon. Sprinkling each dollop with a little extra cocoa powder and twiddling the top with a fork to create a good shape and pattern.
Warm out of the oven, crisp on the outside and still a little soft in the middle, the smell of the bay leaves and chocolate is overwhelmingly fragrant, you just know that they are going to taste amazing!
Serve up the meringues with a seasonal fruit compote (rhubarb is shooting up right now) and a big blob of creme fraiche on the side or chop up a fresh fruit salad using a ripe mango, pineapple, passion fruit and some ruby gem coloured pomegranate seeds (before the arrival of the summer fruits) with a bowl of thickly whisked double cream on the side.