Watch: Darina Allen makes a special Christmas meringue wreath

Ahead of our big Weekend special tomorrow, on turkey with all the trimmings, we have a special look at one of Darina's dessert favourites, straight from the kitchen at Ballymaloe!
Watch: Darina Allen makes a special Christmas meringue wreath

Picture by Fergal Phillips.

INGREDIENTS:

5 egg whites, preferably free range

300g (10oz/1 1/4 cups) caster sugar

600ml (1 pint/2 1/2 cups) whipped cream

½ teaspoon or rose blossom water (optional)

pomegranate seeds (approx. half)

crystallised lemon verbena leaves (see recipe) or diamonds of angelica

parchment paper – with a circle of 25cm (10 inches) drawn underneath

METHOD:

Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/Mark 2.

Make the meringue. Check that the bowl is dry, spotlessly clean and free of grease or any residue of detergent. Mix all the sugar with the egg whites at once and whisk in a food mixer until the mixture forms stiff dry peaks.

Draw a circle of 25cm (10 inches) on the parchment paper.

Fill a couple of piping bags with the meringue, use either a large plain or large star nozzle. Pipe 10 large blobs of meringue side by side onto the circle to form a garland.

Bake immediately in a cool oven, fan 120°C /150°C/300°F/Mark 2 for 1 hour or 1 hour 10 mins or until crisp and the meringue will lift. Turn off the oven and allow to cool.

To serve, carefully slide the meringue off the parchment onto a large serving plate.

Spoon a generous blob of rosewater scented whipped cream on top of each meringue blob. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds over the cream. Decorate with crystallised lemon verbena leaves or diamonds of angelica and fresh mint sprigs.

Crystallized Lemon Verbena leaves

Flowers and leaves crystallized with sugar will keep for months, although they may lose their initial vibrant colour. This is what we call a high-stool job – definitely a labour of love and not something suited to an impatient, Type A personality. The end result is both beautiful and rewarding and many family and staff wedding cakes have been embellished with crystallized flowers over the years.

Flowers and leaves must be edible and are well worth doing.

Smaller flowers are more attractive when crystallized e.g. primroses, violets, apple blossom, viola’s, rose petals….We crystallize lots of leaves as well as flowers so one can make attractive arrangements. Use fairly strong textured leaves - e.g. lemon verbena, mint, lemon balm, sweet cicely, wild strawberry, salad burnet or marguerite daisy leaves.

The caster sugar must be absolutely dry, one could dry it in a low oven for about 30 minutes approx.

Break up the egg white slightly in a little bowl with a fork. 

Using a child's paintbrush, paint the egg white very carefully over each leaf or petal and into every crevice. Pour the caster sugar over the leaf or flower with a teaspoon. 

Arrange the crystallized leaves or flowers carefully on silicone paper so that they retain a good shape. 

Leave to dry overnight in a warm, dry place such as close to an Aga, over a radiator or in an airing cupboard. When properly crystallized, these leaves and flowers will last for months, even years, provided they are kept dry. We store them in a pottery jar or a tin box.

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