Snow eggs are wonderful soft light meringues atop creamy vanilla custard and served with caramel. They are a perfect end to a big meal and are about the easiest dessert to make simply. But they also can be quite challenging to make fancy. In their simplest form, they are poached meringues on a bed of crème anglaise. I was enthralled by Peter Gilmore’s version, with about 73 elements and impossible-to-source ingredients and kitchen equipment. And then, œufs à la neige quickly became my-next-baking-nemesis.
I am quite bad at making quenelles, but I liked the idea of making the meringue look like eggs, complete with a coloured yolk. I think passionfruit or mango would work well to make a yellow filling, with a taste that would ‘go’ with vanilla custard. I use a raspberry mousse here and I have also tried blueberry (rather unnatural egg yolk colours!). To make the egg spheres, I didn’t have a large hemisphere mould and I wasn’t about to go out and buy them for this, so I used a pop cake mould. This worked really well, but they make rather small spheres, which were quite fiddly to hollow out, fill with a fraction of a teaspoon of mousse, seal and serve. Life’s too short to stuff a golf ball-sized meringue! I also liked the idea of torching the eggs to make them a little caramelised and to add some texture.
You can see some of my trials below…. testimony to keeping it simple and that this dish is an absolute bitch to plate up prettily!
I landed on this not-so-simple, but relatively straight-forward take on œufs à la neige: torched egg meringue spheres on raspberry mousse, served in a spun sugar nest on top of warmed crème anglaise. Delicious!
Don’t be too put-off by the number of elements. The big plus for this recipe is that everything can be made ahead separately and refrigerated. Just before serving, warm the crème anglaise, torch the eggs and assemble. I think purists will say that this is meant to be a cold dessert, but I am not a fan of cold custard – and as with all things made at home – I serve it as I prefer!
Snow eggs – œufs à la neige with raspberry mousse
I recommend starting the raspberry mousse first, then the crème anglaise, then the meringue and making the spun sugar caramel nest last.
- 125 g raspberries (fresh or frozen)
- 25 g caster sugar
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon gelatine powder over 1 tablespoon (15 ml) hot water
- 50 ml cream (35% fat)
- Heat the raspberries, caster sugar and lemon juice in a pot over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and the raspberries are soft.
- Pass the raspberry puree through a sieve to remove the seeds and return to the stove top.
- Add the gelatine solution and warm to fully melt the gelatine.
- Pour into a bowl, cover and refrigerate for about an hour – no more – you want the puree to be starting to thicken, but before it turns into a solid jelly.
- Remove from fridge and beat with an electric whisk until foamy.
- Add cream gradually while continuing to whisk for one to two minutes. It should be thickened, but it won’t be stiff (it will fully set in the fridge).
- Spread some mousse onto a tray lined with baking paper (about 15 cm by 15 cm and 1 cm thick).
- Leave in fridge to set for at least 4 hours.
- Once set, use a small round cutter to make 20 disks
Meringue (eggs) – makes 20 spheres
- 3 egg whites, at room temperature
- ¼ of a teaspoon cream of tartar
- 80 g to 100 g caster sugar – equal to weight of egg whites
- Preheat oven to 140°C (fan forced).
- Add the cream of tartar to the egg whites and whisk until stiff peaks form.
- Gradually add the caster sugar one teaspoon at a time while whisking.
- Continue to whisk until a firm and glossy meringue forms (about 1 to 2 minutes).
- Fill the top and bottom sides of a pop cake mould to make the eggs, or fill one side only to make hemispheres (if you plan to fill them later).
- Seal the mould and place in a bain-marie (set mould in a larger oven tray with the bottom filled with boiled water – I usually place a tea towel on the bottom for the pop tart mould to rest on).
- Bake 20-25 minutes until the eggs are set. The timing for this is a little trial-and-error, depending on the temperature of the oven and the type of mould.
- Carefully unmould the meringue ‘eggs’ and set aside on paper towel to allow any excess syrup to drain away.
- The ‘eggs’ can be a little slimy when they are unmoulded because of sugar syrup that has separated in the pop tart mould. This does not effect the taste at all, but if desired, poach the meringues for a minute (no more) in a pan with water heated to barely simmering (not boiling!). Remove from water with a slotted spoon and allow to drain briefly on some paper towel.
- Place eggs in a single layer on baking paper in a sealed container in fridge until needed (they can keep a day like this).
- Torch just before assembly.
- 200 ml cream (35% fat content)
- 100 ml full fat milk
- 1 vanilla bean, split
- 3 egg yolks
- 60 g caster sugar
- Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the cream and add the seed pod too for extra ooomph.
- Heat cream on stovetop until steamy hot (but not boiling).
- In a separate heat proof bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until pale.
- Slowly pour in the heated cream, while continuing to whisk.
- Return to the stove top and heat on medium until the custard thickens (it will remain a pouring consistency).
- Pass through a sieve into a clean bowl to remove the vanilla pod and any solid bits.
- Cover with cling film to prevent a skin forming and refrigerate until needed.
- Warm up just before serving.
Caramel ‘nest’ (spun sugar)
- 50 g caster sugar
- 1 tablespoon glucose syrup
- Layer a large sheet of baking paper on the counter work surface and the floor below.
- Tape wooden spoon handles hanging over the counter (or have pot handles poking over the edge) and brush with some mild tasting cooking oil.
- Clear the room of distractions, including small children.
- Heat sugar and syrup in a pan on stove top on a medium heat until melted (the more cooked, the more brown the nest).
- Once the sugar syrup reaches 150°C (yikes that’s hot!) plunge pot into an iced water bath to stop the cooking and allow to thicken (takes about a minute).
- Pick up some syrup with two forks held back to back, allow the big drips to fall back in the pot, then quickly flick the forks back and forth across the spoon handles over a sheet of baking paper so fine threads form. Gather them up and form into nests and place on baking paper.
- Gently warm the caramel again if it gets too thick.
- I usually do this quite sloppily and free-hand and end up with blobs as well as fine threads. I use the smaller bloblets to decorate.
- These will not last long, as the sugar will liquefy with humidity in the air. Keeps for a day or more in a sealed plastic container (longer if it is cool and dry).
- Just before assembling, gently torch some of the meringue balls using a blow torch, so that they are browned.
- Pour some warmed crème anglaise in the middle of each serving plate and gently place a nest in the centre.
- Working quickly (because the caramel will dissolve), place three disks of raspberry mousse in each nest and top with three eggs (mix of white and browned).
- Decorate the edge of the plate with raspberry mousse pyramids, some extra drops of crème anglaise, caramel bloblets and dried rose petals (if you are feeling really fancy).