Happy Birthday (4!!!) to us…
I can say I’m a very emotional person but birthdays always make me a softie. So I thought about telling you finally the story of how Deanna and I met. For many years I worked all by my lonesome- a freelance photographer making my way in the industry, without a place to call an office, no co-workers, and without anyone to develop ideas, share responsibilities, or even just to gossip about the boss. In those years, I realized that that was definitely the downside of my profession as a photographer. And then… a little over four years ago I was looking for a stylist who was just starting out to work with me on a cookbook with a low budget. Deanna had just started working freelance and had sent out an email to many photographers with a few images of her work. When she sent it to me, I had no use for a stylist at the time but for some reason it caught my eye, so I saved it one of my email folders. So when the time was right I called her. It was two days before her wedding, and I caught her quite off guard. She came a few days later to meet me at my studio, and just like in the most romantic of movies, I knew right away I had found my (work) partner. Matkonation still had yet to be conceived, but once we started working together, we both knew we had something special.
When the blog came was conceived (along with the birth of my second son), our partnership went full speed and we began working together as a team. Although we didn’t know where we were headed, we were headed on the journey together, and not just as partners but as true of friends as friends get.
This time of year when we celebrate another year of creativity, growth and good food, makes me look back and the things we’ve accomplished and look forward to the things that are yet to come. We never imagined four years ago that the blog would become what it is today, we never thought we would get so much gratification from the work itself, and from the response we get from our readers. We never thought we would do such amazing collaborations and meet such talented people in Israel and all over the world.
And now for our birthday wish for the future- the sky is the limit. We have big dreams, to be known all of over the (internet) world, to travel and do what we love (food photography and food styling). But our biggest dream is to just keep on telling our life stories through food and photos and to keep hearing from you, our readers.
Now that I’m tearing, it’s time to stop being emotional and to get on with the cake.
For our birthday, we thought long and hard on the kind of cake we wanted, and after searching and searching for recipes, we decided it was time for a layered meringue cake. I’ve tried making meringue before and it just didn’t work out for me. I read tons of recipes, and I found out where I went wrong in my previous attempts, and I went for it- totally scared it wouldn’t come out.
Here’s my conclusions:
It’s really (seriously) easy to make meringue, as long as you follow the guidelines. Keep in my mind that you’ll have a lot of egg yolks left over, which are always great for making another dessert (I made Crème Brule)!
The guidelines for making a fool-proof meringue:
- Use a clean stainless steel or glass bowl. Make sure the bowl does not have water or oil residue.
- Your eggs should be at room temperature, you can separate them while cold, and then let the whites sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes.
- When separating the eggs it is very very important that not one bit of egg yolks gets into the whites. I work with two bowls side by side, and that way I also am able to keep the yolks for later use.
- Pour in the sugar gradually once the whites stiffen, so that it is incorporated evenly.
- You know your eggs whites are stiff enough when you are able to turn over the mixing bowl and they don’t move.
- Some meringue recipes call for one or two teaspoons of vinegar. I didn’t add vinegar and the meringue came out super crispy from the outside and a little soft on the inside. If you decide to add a teaspoon, add it towards the end of the mixing, it will help the egg whites stiffen. Don’t worry you don’t taste it all.
Amarena Cherry and Dark Chocolate Merignue Cake
We decided to flavor our cake with Amarena cherries and dark chocolate, but you can turn this cake into any flavor you want. Use your favorite fruit, or candy. Or both! I like cakes that aren’t over-sweet so I made the whipped cream without sugar. If you’re topping isn’t super sweet (likes nuts) then make sure to add some sugar into the whipped cream. You can store the meringue discs in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days, and assemble the cake just before serving. You don’t want to let the cake sit for too long before serving, otherwise it may get a little soft.
Inspired by Tanya Zouev’s Black Forest Pavlova Cake:
Ingredients for one 10-inch (26 cm) cake:
For the meringue:
8 egg whites, at room temperature
1½ cups sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon good quality cocoa powder
For the filling:
3 cups heavy sweet cream (for whipping)
¾ cup Amarena cherries (with syrup)
3.5 oz./100 grams dark chocolate, shredded
- Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C.
- Using a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites until soft white peaks form. Gradually add the sugar and vanilla extract and continue whisking until the egg whites are completely stiff. Sift the cocoa into the egg whites and very gently fold into the mixture.
- Take a 10-inch plate and using a pencil, trace the plate onto a sheet of parchment paper. Repeat with a second sheet. Turn the sheet around (the side without the pencil) and use a rubber spatula to evenly place the meringue into the two rounds on the baking sheet.
- Lower oven heat to 250°F/120°C and place the baking sheets into the oven. Cook for 90 minutes. Once 90 minutes have passed, shut off the oven but keep the baking sheets inside the hot oven until the oven has completely cooled.
- Prepare the filling: Place the heavy cream into a mixing bowl and whisk until whipped cream is formed.
- Assemble the cake: carefully remove the meringue discs from the baking paper and place of the discs onto the desired serving plate. Using a rubber spatula, place half of the whipped cream onto the meringue and top with the Amarena cherries, syrup and chocolate. Repeat with the second layer and serve.