There’s a tiny hidden gem of a restaurant just a short stroll from our house, that Mr.B and I love for romantic dinners. It also happens to have a killer cocktail menu, and a few months ago I first tried an Amaretto Sour. It was LOVE at first sip; absolutely mouthwatering with all the sweet, sour and bitter tastes I adore.
That started off a slow journey of inspiration and dreaming of tastes, images and memories, marinading in my head. The almond taste of the Amaretto brought back vivid memories of my Mum’s almond jelly with fruit cocktail. Mum made this in the long, hot British summers of the 1970’s when school holidays went on forever and there was nothing to do in the days pre-internet. Glorious boredom, what I wouldn’t give for you now. I can see the white diamond shapes of jelly with the oh-so-exotic fruit cocktail from a can. Slippery and icy cold from the fridge. God I loved that dessert!
I began to think of a dessert in layers; in my mind’s eye it looked like Peter Gilmore’s legendary Snow Egg that everyone knows from Australian Masterchef. Sorry, Mr.Gilmore, even thinking this is sacrilegious.
My imagination started working overtime and I admit, I became a little obsessed. I did NOT want this dessert to feature fruit cocktail from a can, but something more refined. I needed flavours of almond, something bitter and sour, something fruity and something frothy like the egg white in the Amaretto sour.
Months of thinking have culminated in this: I give you The Amaretto Sour Sweet. First a layer of intense, creamy Amaretto panacotta, followed by lychee and pink grapefruit pieces, suspended in perfumed lychee jelly. Next, a zesty layer of bitter-sweet pink grapefruit granita topped with a snowy white marshmallow dome of poached meringue.
The flavours each stood out in their own right, and were as complimentary as the cocktail it was inspired by. The different textures were the stand-out for me; creamy and smooth, light and slippery, icy, then marshmallowy. I think if this had been Masterchef they’d have expected some crisp element like an almond tuille or some-such , but I could live without it.
Impressed? I was. The whole thing came together just as planned, without even a tiny hitch. I don’t think it looks a million miles away from Quay’s infamous Snow Egg.
I’ve never made any of these elements before, except maybe jelly, and that would have been a long time ago. Honestly, everything was pretty straightforward and easier than I expected. Just think of each stage individually and I promise it will seem simple. The added bonus is that all the components need to be made ahead anyway. It can all be done the day before a dinner party or whatever, and then quickly assembled before serving. Perfect!
- 50g castor sugar
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cup cream
- 1/2 cup Amaretto
- Enough gelatin to set 625ml of liquid (all gelatins are different - see instructions on pack)
- 1 can of lychees in syrup
- 1 pink grapefruit
- Enough gelatin to set 500ml of liquid (all gelatins are different - see instructions on pack. I used gelatin leaves for jelly as it gives a clearer result)
- Juice of 1 pink grapefruit
- Juice 1/2 lemon
- An equal volume to juice of heavy sugar syrup (1 part water to 1 part castor sugar)
- An equal volume to juice of water
- A dash of angostura bitters
- 150g egg white (approx 3 eggs worth)
- 150g castor sugar
- Dissolve castor sugar in the milk, cream and Amaretto over a gentle heat.
- Following the packet instructions carefully, add the gelatin to the mix.
- Allow to cool slightly and then carefully pour into 4 glasses.
- I used a small funnel so the mixture didn't splash all over the glass.
- Arrange glasses on a tray and refrigerate until set.
- Wait until the panacotta is set before preparing the jelly. You don't want it to set in the pan while you are waiting.
- Pour the syrup from the can of lychees into a measuring jug and fill up to 500ml with water.
- The syrup was a murky neutral colour, so I rubbed a few raspberries through a sieve to add a rosy tint.
- Pass the finished liquid through a fine sieve or clean dishcloth into a clean jug to remove all the little floating bits.
- Prepare the gelatin leaves and add to the liquid as per pack instructions.
- Stir well.
- Cut up some of the lychees into smaller pieces. Put aside.
- With a sharp paring knife cut all the peel and pith from the outside of the grapefruit.
- With the grapefruit in one hand, over a bowl to catch the juice, cut closely between each side of the segment skin to release each segment. Put aside.
- When the panacotta is set, carefully spoon a thin layer of the jelly over each layer of panacotta in the glasses. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes until set. You want the fruit to sit on this layer rather than directly on top of the panancotta, so it appears suspended.
- If you're not fussed, or pushed for time, skip this step.
- Carefully arrange the fruit pieces in each glass - not too much as you need room for the other layers.
- Pour over the remaining jelly mixture taking care to cover the fruit pieces as much a possible, and try not to splash the glass.
- Return to the fridge until serving time.
- To make the heavy sugar syrup heat the sugar and water together until the sugar has dissolved.
- Add cooled sugar syrup and equal volume of water to the juices of the pink grapefruit and lemon.
- Add a dash of angostura bitters.
- Pour into a shallow tray and freeze.
- Once frozen, and if you have the time, scrape the granita with a fork every 4 or 5 hours, returning to the freezer, until needed.
- I didn't have the patience and just scraped the whole lot with a fork to create the granita about a hour before serving time and returned to the freezer until I was ready to serve.
- You will need a 6cm diameter dome silicone mould sheet (mine has 6 domes), and an oven proof pan large enough to hold the mould sheet. I used a baking tin.
- Preheat oven to 120C.
- With an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks.
- Slowly add the sugar, continually beating until you have firm peaks and the sugar has dissolved.
- Fill each dome with meringue mixture, pressing gently to avoid too many air spaces.
- Level the top of the mould and clean up with the flat edge of a knife.
- Place the mould tray into the oven proof pan and fill to 3/4 with water to form a bain-marie.
- Place in the oven and cook for about 15 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and leave in the water for another 5 minutes before removing the silicone mould sheet from the bath to cool completely.
- Unmould the meringues and carefully arrange on a silicone sheet in a container with a lid.
- Store in the fridge until ready to serve.
- Add a layer of grapefruit granita to each glass.
- Top each glass with a poached meringue dome. (They are very sticky, so work carefully)
- Serve immediately.
- Soak up the rapturous praise! You are welcome.
I used elements from the following cooks/chefs/books and adapted for my recipe. The panacotta is from a basic sweet panacotta recipe and the granita is from a lemon and lime granita by Stephanie Alexander from The Cook’s Companion. The basic jelly recipe is from the back of the gelatin packet. The poached meringue is from the initial stage of the guava snow egg by Peter Gilmore from the book Quay: Food inspired by Nature.
This first attempt was just for the four of us at home. They were impressed. Any dessert on a week night will impress my family, but Mr.B proclaimed it on his Top Ten Desserts of All Time list. I didn’t know there was such a list, and he couldn’t remember any other desserts on it, so I’ll take it as a resounding compliment!
Thanks to Safari Living for the loan of their beautiful servingware and glassware.