Of all the desserts I’ve ever made, this one has received the highest reviews and praise from family and friends. The absolute crowd favourite. And that includes crème brûlée and the River Café’s flourless chocolate cake. Mascarpone fluffed with whipping cream, bittersweet caramel, toasted almonds, all folded into a craggy, cracked meringue, then covered in more caramel sauce and crushed praline. How could this NOT be the new decadent dream?
Don’t let the many steps put you off making this recipe. The caramel sauce and almond meringue can be made ahead, so that once your meringue is done, you really don’t have much to do but whip together the filling and roll it all up.
This recipe was given to me by my lovely friend Jan, who cut it out from a magazine. When I lost my physical copy the night before a party, I frantically messaged her and she kindly photographed it and sent it. Once armed with the document, I was determined not to lose it again, so I also photographed it and saved it. Thank goodness, because the digital copy she sent me has disappeared once again into the ether.
Now that I have the name, I performed an online search and found that it’s an LCBO recipe! Which makes sense, because Food & Drink recipes rarely let me down. I have made a few modifications, however, that I think are crucial to its success.
I have tried the egg washed toasted almonds several times, and they can easily turn tacky and gluey, unless you’ve got a lot of extra time to dry them out in the oven. It is far easier just to use plain toasted almonds, but I have made them into a praline by making extra caramel, which hardens on the almonds and is crushed into powder to be dusted on top. There is usually leftover for another dessert. If you like the idea of the crispy almonds toasted in egg white and sugar, then add a splash of water to the egg wash to dilute it a little. But because this dessert isn’t overly sweet thanks to the mascarpone, I say add some crunch and and burnt sugar with the easy almond praline.
I have also doubled the filling for a bigger, messier, more Nigella-esque concoction. Luxurious, decadent, a glorious caramel meringue schlump. Where I did keep to the original, however, was the caramel. I tend to favour a brown sugar/butter/whipping cream caramel sauce on top of butterscotch pudding, but this burnt sugar and water sauce really does offset the sweetness for a perfectly balanced flavour combination.
The last time I made it, I added some espresso powder to the caramel mascarpone filling, and it was divine. And I don’t drink coffee. But it added just the perfect note. Make this your deconstructed Yule log, and you’ll never look back.
This recipe really deserved a better photo shoot, so I’ll likely make it again for just that purpose. I’m sure I won’t have any trouble finding a home for this most beloved of all creations.
- 1 cup sliced almonds
- 1 cup sugar (preferably caster sugar)
- 1 pinch sea salt
- ¼ cup water
- 1½ cup granulated or superfine sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 1 pinch sea salt
- 1 cup ground almonds (almond flour)
- 1⅛ cup sugar
- 1½ tsp cornstarch
- ¾ cup egg whites (from about 6 eggs), at room temperature
- 1 tsp vinegar
- 1 tsp almond extract
- 1 cup sliced almonds
- ½ cup Icing sugar for decoration
- 1 cup caramel sauce
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 1 cup mascarpone
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 tbsp espresso powder (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (150°C)
- Place flaked almonds on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 5 to 7 minutes, or until the almonds develop a light golden color.
- Lined a rimmed baking sheet (if using the same one, remove almonds to a bowl (or plate) with parchment paper and paint with a thin layer of neutral flavoured vegetable oil.
- Add sliced almonds and fold in gently with a spatula. Working quickly, spread them across the greased baking sheet until fairly uniform. Let cool for an hour.
- Once cool, roughly break apart the praline and place it in a food processor. Pulse a few times until you have smallish crumbs. Measure out about 1 cup/150grams of the mixture and set aside until time to use.
- This step can be done up to a week ahead.
- Place the sugar in a small saucepan and add the water. Place over high heat and cover the pot with a lid. As soon as the sugar is completely dissolved and boiling, remove the lid.
- Continue boiling until the syrup caramelizes and turns a golden amber colour, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Recipes for caramel always say not to stir but if you notice it getting too dark in one area (as can happen with gas or an uneven element), swirl very gently, getting as little as possible on the sides of the pot.
- Remove the pan from the heat and gradually add 1 cup (250 mL) of the whipping cream (the mixture will bubble up), whisking until smooth. Pour the hot caramel into a heatproof glass measuring cup and refrigerate until completely chilled, about 2 hours.You can make the sauce a couple of days ahead.
- For the almond meringue, set the oven rack in the middle position and preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Line a 12 x 17-inch (30 x43‑cm) sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.
- In a small bowl, combine the ground almonds, 2 tbsp (30 mL) sugar, and the cornstarch.
- Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Begin mixing the egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue beating to soft peaks. Add the remaining 1 cup (250 mL) sugar in a slow stream.
- Once all the sugar is added, stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl using a rubber spatula. Continue beating until the whites form stiff shiny peaks. Add the vinegar and almond extract and mix just to combine.
- Remove the bowl from the mixer and gently but thoroughly fold the ground-almond mixture into the meringue, one-third at a time.
- Spread the meringue in the pan, levelling the top. Sprinkle with sliced almonds and very lightly press them in with your hand.
- Place in the oven, and immediately reduce the temperature to 275°F (140°C). Bake until the meringue is set and light golden brown, about 40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
- Sift icing sugar over a clean sheet of parchment paper and turn the meringue out onto the paper, almond-side down. Carefully remove the parchment liner.
- To finish the caramel filling, place 1 cup (250 mL) of the cooled caramel, the remaining 1 cup (250 mL) of whipping cream, and the mascarpone in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat together until stiff.
- If you like coffee, cream and caramel, add 1 tbsp espresso powder with the other ingredients. (HINT: it's amazing!)
Tie it all together!
- Spread the cream evenly over the meringue. Starting at the long side farthest away from you, roll up the meringue, using the paper as a lever. The meringue will crack. Wrap the roulade in foil and refrigerate until serving time.
- To serve, drizzle remaining caramel sauce all over and sprinkle with almond praline. Slice and devour.