An airy pillow of meringue crisp on the outside, meltingly soft inside with jammy dates and crunchy walnuts locked in caramelised sugar like in amber… like the description? Wait till you taste it.
Meringue, a dream dessert
If you love meringues (and who doesn’t?), adore nougat (those hols in Provence…) and can’t resist marshmallows (everybody, secretly), prepare to be blown away. I can honestly not imagine a lovelier confection than these date and walnut nougat meringues.
I adore the glossy beaten egg white mountains, possibly the reason why I like skiing so much – looking at sun-glistening peaks of dazzling white always makes me think of my favourite sweets.
Meringue kisses, nests, sandwiches, marshmallowy meringues, nougaty meringues, a plethora of pavlovas, dacquoise and macarons; croquants, îles flottantes, Eton mess and – this is a sudden epiphany, yet to be executed – meringue roulade filled with Swiss meringue buttercream.
But skinny meringue is only a dream
My biggest dream (well, one of them) is to make sugarless meringues. There’s so much you can do with and from meringue it’s highly annoying there isn’t a low-calorie option.
Wouldn’t it be nice to serve mushroom-flavoured meringues atop a perfect juicy steak? Crunchy Parmesan meringues in Caesar salad instead of croutons? Or super-spicy meringue shards in a cold beef sandwich?
Sadly, it seems a non-starter unless I resort to using weird unappetising sounding substances like vegetable gums, inulin or polydextrose.
That’s something I definitely won’t do to my meringues: sweets they will have to remain.
I'm dating my meringue
This recipe is a result of my fleeting fascination with meringue with dates featured in Moje Wypieki (My Baking) followed by a ‘is it a thing?’ research via date and walnut cookies from Food.com.
You might think it’s not for you because you don’t like dates – wrong thinking, the dates jammily dissolve into sweetness within the fragile meringue hearts.
You might not be fond of cookies with walnuts in them – these ain’t cookies and walnuts are but a nutty chewiness added to the firm on the outside, super-soft but not sticky inside white piles of allure.
And finally, to put it simply: some people like chewy meringues, some prefer it firm and dry and these will please both kinds.
Contrary to common opinions, meringue is not as unforgiving as some claim.
Obviously, the bowl should be clean but then it should be always, shouldn’t it? There’s definitely no need to wipe it with lemon juice. Egg whites should be separated cleanly but I’ve successfully beaten meringues with a tiniest speck of yolk. And the sugar addition methods vary enormously.
This recipe features the classic one: adding cold sugar by a spoonful to already stiff meringue.
You can up the ante by heating up the sugar in the oven before starting to add spoonfuls in.
Ottolenghi goes further and instructs to dump all the hot sugar into the egg whites at once, then beat like mad.
And then there’s the refined, Italian method: drizzling hot sugar syrup to beaten egg whites.
Apart from the last one which makes absolutely stunning and stable meringue, all the other methods don’t make a discernible difference, at least in my experience. So pick your best, or mix and match.
This meringue is supposed to be chewy, hence the mix of white and brown sugars, with the cinnamon for flavour.
The walnuts in chunks and the chopped dates are folded in at the end.
I bake meringues in warm oven, at 100C or 200F so an electric oven is certainly a winner over gas.
These babies should be shaped generously, with a tablespoon, and they’ll take about an hour and a half till set but not coloured. The best way to finish them off is to leave them in the switched oven with the door slightly ajar, until completely cold – or overnight.
And they will keep gloriously well – and look very pretty – in a large, airtight glass jar.
More meringue recipes
Mixed flavoured meringue kisses, mini meringues with lemon, raspberry, chocolate and pistachio flavour. The quickest meringue recipe, with burnt sugar.
Raspberry meringue roulade: the perfect dessert recipe by Ottolenghi, with raspberries and whipped mascarpone cream filling, decorated with rose petals and pistachios. It can be made ahead and frozen.
Mini meringue kisses with chocolate ganache filling. Pretty pink coloured meringue drops, filled with the nicest white and dark chocolate ganache.
More date recipes
Date shortbread bars, shortcrust slices sandwiched with date, cinnamon and orange filling. Good shortcrust pastry with naturally sweet filling is great for a treat.
Honey cake with dates and apples from Nigella Lawson’s collection is not only suitable for Rosh Hashanah: it’s simply the perfect autumnal cake.
Sticky toffee pudding cake topped with nuts and toffee sauce. Dates and dark brown sugar are the key ingredients in a sticky toffee cake, and nuts are optional but oh-so-gorgeous.