Have I told you before I am not much of a baker? With my propensity to repeat myself, I probably already did. As I've said many times, give me a carcass of pig, bovine or fowl and I'll find many delicious ways to enjoy it from nose to tail. But flour, baking powder or yeast? I'll stare at you blankly, dazed and confused. Sure, the cheese cupcakes and macaroons on the site regularly receive rave reviews but they are really more from my luck in finding the right recipe through diligent research than my skill with baking pans. G disagrees with how I like to admit to my baking inadequacies online. He thinks by undermining my skills, I risk losing your confidence. How can you teach what you don't know, right? I, on the other hand, believe it is a strength to realize one's own weaknesses. By acknowledging what I don't know, I am able to learn. Like how to make brazo de mercedes.
Brazo de mercedes is a type of jelly roll dessert made with a pillowy meringue rolled around a rich custard filling. Although initially I was intimidated by what I thought to be a very complicated process, it turned out to be a pretty simple cake to make. I breezed through the custard center easily enough but the meringue outer layer did prove a little tricky. My egg whites fell flat on my first try and I had to read up on how to whip whites properly before my next go. Hep, hep, hooray! After googling tips and tricks, my beaten egg whites stood proud and stiff. Here are a a few guidelines to remember.
- Use fresh eggs as they whip better. Let egg whites stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes before beating.
- Use a copper, stainless or glass bowl. Avoid aluminum bowls as they can turn egg whites to gray.
- Use very clean and dry bowls and beaters. Fats or any residue can affect the eggs' volume. Make sure no traces of yolk get into the whites as they will not expand properly.
- Add sugar slowly to the egg whites so they don't lose volume.
- Do not overbeat! You know they have reached stiff peaks when the whipped whites no longer slide around when the bowl is tilted.
- To prevent the egg yolks from curdling, make sure to cook the custard over low heat.
Brazo de Mercedes
For the Custard Filling
- 10 egg yolks beaten
- 1 14 ounces can condensed milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- zest of 1 lemon
For the Meringue
- 10 egg whites
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 cup superfine sugar
- ¼ cup powdered sugar
- In a double broiler over low heat, combine egg yolks, milk, vanilla extract and lemon zest. Cook, stirring regularly, for about 30 to 40 minutes or until mixture thickens into a spreadable paste. Transfer custard into a bowl and cover with wax paper until ready to use.
- In a bowl, combine egg whites and cream of tartar. Using an electric mixer, beat at low speed. As the egg whites start to turn opaque and begin to fluff into a thick foam, gradually add the sugar in small amounts and continue to beat while gradually increasing speed of mixer until stiff peaks form. The whipped whites will be smooth and glossy, with no sugar grains.
- Line a 14 x 16 baking sheet with wax paper and lightly grease surface of paper. Transfer meringue onto prepared baking sheet and using a spatula, spread evenly across into about ¼-inch thick. Bake in a 350 F oven for about 20 minutes or until meringue is set and top has turned to light brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
- Using a fine mesh sieve, light dust top with powdered sugar. Place another layer of greased wax paper and another baking sheet over meringue. Gently invert meringue onto the new baking sheet and peel the wax paper on top.
- Spoon custard on top and spread evenly on cooked meringue, leaving about ¼ without filling. Starting on the filled side, carefully roll meringue into a log. Cover both ends of the brazo de mercedes with wax paper and chill in the refrigerator for about 1 hour. To serve, cut into desired thickness.