Reader! How are you? How’s the weather where you are? Here in Berlin, spring has sprung. The breezes are warm, the trees are blooming (the creamy magnolias are already on their way out, in fact, sob, but the frothy cherry blossoms are still in full glory), the markets are stuffed with fragrant strawberries and fat white asparagus. I have put away my heavy wool sweaters and warm coats and am swanning around in t-shirts and sockless feet. It is glorious.
My little white baby Bruno even has his very first sunburn on the tops of his deliciously fat feet. I am fully and miserably responsible. I plead ignorance: my skin color has me regularly mistaken for being South Asian so I have a relatively “relaxed” attitude about sunscreen when not on the beach, yet I seem to have given birth to the whitest baby in Germany, poor thing. The other day, we were at the playground in the what felt like not-even-that-hot-for-crying-out-loud sunshine, yadda yadda yadda, before I knew it, Bruno had red feet. Gah. So I am doing penance now by stocking up on baby sunscreen and already looking forward to the pitying looks that he will be getting from the mahogany-skinned Italians on the beach this summer.
As I type, I have a plastic bag filled with strawberries sitting on the chair next to me. These aren’t the best strawberries, yet, but they smell delicious and between Hugo and me, I anticipate them lasting until, oh, tomorrow morning at best. (Bruno, so far, refuses to eat any berry at all. Weirdo. Takes after his father.)
Anyway, I’m telling you this because I feel a little funny about what I’m going to do next. Which is: blog about a wintertime dessert made with roasted apples. But is so wonderful and delicious that you simply must know about it. And since I was in the depths of new-baby-hood when I first discovered it (and made it obsessively for every special meal we were invited to for a couple of months), I didn’t write about it when it was topical and in-season. Instead I’m doing so now when you could probably care less about roasted apples and will immediately close the browser window and tell me to go jump in a lake. That’s fine! I’d do the same! Forgive me!
But for the three of you who don’t feel that way (or for those of you on the other side of the world, or in Boston, where it was still SNOWING yesterday for the love of Pete), this is for you.
All layered together in a beautiful serving dish and spooned out in such a way that each bite contains a bit of creamy, crunchy, roasty, toasty, juicy wonderfulness. The recipe comes from Diana Henry’s reboot of Simple and is, indeed, simple. All you have to actually cook are the roasted apples (does toasting hazelnuts even count as cooking?). The rest is whipping cream and bashing up store-bought meringues and drizzling maple syrup (and, uh, toasting hazelnuts - don’t you even dare to try and skip this step as untoasted hazelnuts are the devil’s work, as everyone knows).
It is, of course, a wintry riff on Eton mess, traditionally made with fresh strawberries in spring and a glorious dessert in its own right. (Though I never really get beyond just stuffing fresh strawberries unadorned into my craw when they're local and sweet and cheap and sold on every street corner.) Somehow, with the meringues and yogurt and apples, it manages to be a pretty light dessert, the kind you're happy to spoon up after a big meal. (I was going to write, "like Christmas" after that, but it turns out that even I, blogger of apple desserts in springtime, can't bring myself to write about the holiday that shall not be named, so you'll just have to infer it.)
And with that, dear reader, I'm off to buy some fresh rhubarb. At the rate I'm going, I'll blog about what I do with it just around Thanksgiving. Ha!
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Roast Apple and Maple Eton Mess
Adapted from Simple
1.5 lbs cooking apples, peeled, cored and halved
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup maple syrup, divided, plus more to serve, optional
3 1/2 tablespoons hazelnuts
1 cup whipping cream
1/3 cup Greek yogurt
4 1/4 ounces meringues, coarsely broken up
1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Place the apples in a roasting pan and toss with the brown sugar. Drizzle 3 tablespoons water over the apples. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until the fruit is tender. Drizzle 2-3 tablespoons maple syrup over the apples and let cool.
2. Toast the hazelnuts in a dry pan over medium heat, stirring frequently, until they smell toasty and delicious. Let cool and coarsely chop.
3. If necessary, lightly crush the apples with a fork - but take care not to make applesauce out of them.
4. Whip the cream until it holds its shape, then fold in the Greek yogurt and remaining maple syrup.
5. Layer the apples, cream, hazelnuts and meringue in individual glass dishes or one larger serving dish. If you like, you can drizzle additional maple syrup as you go (I never do). Finish with a layer of cream and a sprinkling of hazelnuts. Serve immediately (otherwise the meringues soften).