Thursday, May 5, 2011

Brazo De Mercedes (Take 2)

        I am a perfectionist. I am a control freak. I just set my expectations too high for myself and get upset when I fall short of them, even when other people think I've done a good job (maybe they are just too kind) I still think I can do better. I guess I just have to learn to lower those expecations or keep working on reaching perfection. And keep remembering that practice makes perfect.
        This is my second attempt at the well loved Filipino dessert Brazo De Mercedes (Meringue Swiss Roll with Egg Yolk Custard filling). And it wasn't a perfect job. It fell short of perfect, though it was definately better than my first go on so many levels. I guess all I can do now is learn and try again to reach perfection. You can have a look at my appalling first go here. I decided to have another go at it and make it to take to a catch up lunch with Ryan's cousin. This recipe is my adaption of a few that are around on the internet.

Brazo De Mercedes
• 10 large eggs, seperated
• Pinch of Cream of Tartar
• 1/2 cup sugar
• 1 can of sweetened condensed milk (Nestle 395g)
• 1 tsp vanilla bean extract
• Icing sugar, to dust

        I decided I wanted to make two rolls, so had 20 eggs to seperate. I did it on my bedroom floor in front of the TV. You might also want to make the custard a day before you make the meringue. It allows the custard to set and thicken which makes it easier to handle.

        To make the custard, combine the egg yolks, condensed milk and vanilla bean extract in a saucepan. Cook on a medium low heat, stirring constantly until thickened, this will take approximately 20 minutes or so. You need to be patient with this. I cooked my custard over direct heat, you could also do it over a pot of simmering water if you're worried about the mixture curdling.

        My custard is not curdled as such but it is quite lumpy as I keep turning the heat up and down because I got impatient. This is why it is important to constantly stir over a consistently low heat to avoid the custard scrambling or seperating.

        I don't recomment that you do this, but it did work for me. I placed my lumpy custard into my blender and whizzed it to get rid of the lumps and it came out nice and smooth. I guess it would only work if your custard hadn't turned to scrambled eggs. Place into the fridge until the custard is thick and cold (preferably overnight).

        To make the meringue, combine the egg whites and cream of tartar in a mixing bowl and beat on high speed until stiff peaks form. Pour the meringue onto a lined and greased tray and spread out with a spatula. To even out the surface, run the blade of a knife across the surface scraping away any excess meringue. Optionally, you can use a comb to smooth out the meringue and create ridges/patterns on the surface.

        Bake in a pre-heated oven at 140 degrees celcius for about 45 minutes, the meringue is ready when it is a nice golden brown. Leave to cool before dusting with icing sugar and then inverting the meringue sheets onto another lined tray.

Thick, sticky custard.

        Recipes tell you to spread the custard along one (long) side of the meringue sheet and then rolling the meringue around the custard. I decide to experiment with two ways and also spread the entire meringue sheet with custard hoping to get nice even spiral layers of custard and meringue. It's probably easier to handle spreading the custard down the one side and then rolling the meringue around it.

        I find that I have to use the baking paper to help roll the meringue as it is very fragile to handle. It also holds the rolls together nicely. Place them into the fridge to set a little before attempting to remove the paper.

        Unveiling one Brazo De Mercedes. You can see that this one cracks a little in some parts along the side. Perhaps my meringue was a little too thin, or slightly over cooked.

        The ends don't look too nice so I cut them off, this isn't such a good idea as the custard seeps out. It was a warm day too so that didn't help either. I also divided the rolls to give out, this meant that there were more exposed ends which resulted in custard slowly seeping out everywhere. It's probably a better idea to cut the meringue to size first and then filling them and then rolling. The two different ways of spreading the custard also doesn't really make that much of a different visually so I'd just go for the easier method next time.

        Sprinkle with extra icing sugar before serving. It may not be perfect, but it's definately a much better attempt compared to my first go. During our critiquing conversation, Ryan suggested perhaps I add some gelatine to the custard to make it more stable. Some recipes include mixing ground cashew nuts to the custard which perhaps gives it a thicker sturdier consistency I suppose? Or else I just shouldn't cut the end off until just before serving to keep the custard from seeping out.
        This dessert is not for the faint hearted. It is super sweet, but is super addictive too. Soft fluffy meringue that just melts in your mouth, paired with a sweet sticky custard that just compliments it perfectly. Serve with a cup of your favourite tea and it's not too bad. It is definately a treat to be had for special occasions only ;) I did attempt to make a blueberry coulis to serve with the dessert to help cut through the richness but ended up stuffing it up (too sweet) so left it out. This is not the last time I will be making this, perhaps third time lucky.


Richard Elliot said...

Angie, you don't make life easy for yourself taking on a dessert like this one!

I haven't made it for years, but used to do a pavlova swiss roll with summer berries. I don't think you can help a little bit of cracking when you attempt to roll such a delicate component.

And I've had lots of trouble getting large quantities of creme patissier (which is quite similar) to set in tarts recently. It goes everywhere, but tastes lovely!

mademoiselle délicieuse said...

I have yet to attempt making anything "rolled" for the very reason that I'd probably crack it when doing so. Cakes can be covered with icing sugar or frosting to hide flaws but some things just can't be! Serious props to you for trying out this process-heavy dessert and I almost fainted when I saw how many eggs were used =p

Anonymous said...

I'm a perfectionist like you. Currently on attempt #2 for a recipe that I still won't post :) What if you use creme patissiere instead of custard? Just a thought...

Gastronomy Gal said...

argh- you are a perfectionist! I would be so happy with this attempt! Lovin the new blog by the way x

chocolatesuze said...

the egg yolks sitting all snug in that bowl makes me smile :P this dessert sounds like heaven!

Maria said...

I think you're being too hard on yourself Angie ;-) These rolls look fantastic! And that's a whole lot of eggs!!

Anonymous said...

This looks like what we call in Puerto Rico 'Brazo Gitano'. It's usually stuffed with Guava Paste. But right now I'm drooling over the custard!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Well done for pursuing it Angie! It gives it an even greater sense of accomplishment I'm sure :)

Tina@foodboozeshoes said...

Oh drool.... It looks perfect to me!

Anonymous said...

thats really looks like shit, please practice more before you post those things again. cheers

Gianna@TheEmptyFridge said...

Oh ange, you did a great job! Not that I have ever attempted the brazo (my family ask me all the time) but I just know I would end up in a teary mess! Well done love.

And anonymous, such a shame you have nothing better in life to do. Loser.

Wendy @ Obesebaby said...

Wow this is awesome dessert looks rich but i think will goes well with a nice hot cup of tea!

Magpie said...

My husband has been raving about this dessert from his childhood in Manila and it does indeed sound yummy! Must have been really hard to make though I am sure it tasted fabulous!
your tips were very useful, I am going to attempt to make it for his birthday, tho I might end up making it in two layers instead of a roll because I'm a wimp :(

Angie Lives to Eat (and Cook)! said...

A late reply to my Anonymous commenter. Please refrain from being so rude. If you actually bothered to read this post I actually tell about my shortcomings in the kitchen and that this is no where near perfect.
I would like to see you try to make this perfectly first (or second) go.

Cris said...

To prevent the meringue from breaking, raise the oven temp to 180C and bake for only 20-22mins. Spread the custard as fast as you can and roll while its still hot.