“Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.” -Mahatma Gandhi
One of the reasons I made this blog was to document my attempts at trying new things and learning along the way. This means I will not only write about my successes, but also my failures. The goal is to always discover and to always do better next time.
Recently, I got to make my version of a big pionono, which is similar to a jelly roll cake. Since I was very happy with how it turned out, I thought of going for a similar dessert called Brazo de Mercedes.
Translating literally to “Mercedes’ arm,” it’s more accurately translated to “Arm of our Lady of Mercy.” This is not surprising since the Philippines was once a Spanish colony. And while this dessert seems similar to Spain’s Brazo de Gitano (gypsy’s arm) and the Swiss roll cake, the Brazo de Mercedes contains no flour at all. Instead, it’s a fluffy delight that’s basically a meringue.
The recipe I used was from Foxy Folksy and she included tips on how to make a damn good Brazo de Mercedes (some of which I did not bother following, tsk).
I started with my favorite part–the meringue. I got hooked on making meringue when I did my first attempt at Japanese cheesecake. I am still amazed at how egg whites could turn into this opaque, fluffy goodness.
The recipe called for five egg whites, 1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp of sugar and 1/2 tsp of cream of tartar. It took a few minutes of beating until I got to stiff peaks. I did not bother with those lines/ridges traditionally seen in this dessert because I had no pastry comb. I baked it at a pre-heated oven at 180°C.
Mistake number 1: I placed the tray on the top rack. The meringue browned too much than it was supposed to. I guess the recommended baking temperature was fine had my oven not been an electric convection type. I shall lower the temperature next time and bake at the lower rack with an empty baking tray on the first rack for the first few minutes.
Next was the custard filling. Using the five egg yolks separated from the whites used in the meringue, I added 7oz of condensed milk. I combined them in a saucepan and went to the stove to heat the mixture until thickened.
Mistake number 2: The saucepan I got had too thin a bottom for our induction stove that has no notion of consistent temperature. In a matter of minutes, the temp shot up to 160°C and in seconds, my custard started to burn a little bit.
Fortunately, I did not burn the whole thing. So, I sifted the custard mixture to a new pot that had a thicker bottom to leave the few clumps that burned. What I did like from what happened was that it gave my custard a sort of caramel taste (think dulce de leche). I heated it until it reached a spreadable consistency. I added the vanilla after taking mixture out of the stove.
I got my meringue from the oven and waited for it to cool down. Then, I dusted the top with powdered sugar and flipped it over. I peeled the baking sheet/parchment liner that I used and spread my custard over the meringue. I love it when my Brazo de Mercedes oozes with the filling so I made sure to be generous with it. Then, I rolled the meringue like I would a jelly roll cake.
See the little spots of dark browning on top? Thankfully, it did not taste like charcoal. Like the custard, the browning of the meringue gave it a deeper, richer flavor. A few extra seconds would have probably burned the entire top, geez!
Let’s forget the browned top for a second and focus on the inside. Ooooh yeah! The filling should have been a bright yellow had I not almost burned all of it. Still looks yummy to me though.
Despite my blunders, I still liked it. It only took two days for us at home to finish the whole log! That being said, I bet that if I didn’t make my two mistakes, it would have been so much more of a hit!
I tell you, my Mom will not hold back from criticizing it if it really was bad. She is so hard to please when it comes to food and is not shy at expressing her displeasure when she is not happy. But, since she ate slices from it more than once, I am sure it truly wasn’t awful at all!
I am so excited for attempt number 2!