This recipe is actually from Joy, my good friend and Aisa’s ninang from St. Lou: In 1989 when we were both unmarried and looking for stuff to do on the weekends, we’d bake. One Saturday it was Black Forest cake which didn’t turn out too well. Another Saturday it was this. Joy learned how to make this from her mom Tessie, who was a wonderful cook. Ninang Tessie became one of our wedding sponsors, and passed away last year after a long battle with cancer. I have many memories of her cooking, her generosity and her kindness. Here’s to you, Ninang!

10 eggs, whites and yolks separated carefully
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 cup sugar
1 can sweetened condensed milk (sorry, i forget how many ounces, i’m talking about the regular-sized can)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
confectioner’s sugar for topping
cooking spray

Perhaps I should mention that I have had best results separating the egg whites from the yolks using my hands — a technique I also learned from Joy. Your hands are sturdy enough that you can use them as a sieve, and soft enough that you won’t fear breaking the yolks. Break each egg into one hand letting the egg white fall through into a bowl; you can transfer the yolk from hand to hand until all of the egg white is gone. It would also be helpful to do each egg white one at a time. Use 3 bowls: 1 for the egg whites, 1 for the yolks, and 1 little one to separate them. This way, if you accidentally break a yolk and contaminate the egg whites, you haven’t ruined the whole batch.

Beat the whites and the cream of tartar in the bowl of a mixer until it holds soft peaks. With the mixer on , gradually add the sugar by tablespoonfuls. Continue to beat until it holds stiff peaks. You can tell when you’ve beaten enough when the mixture is smooth and has a nice even sheen. When you pull the beaters out of the egg whites quickly the whites should be firm and not flopping over. DO NOT OVERBEAT. Overbeaten egg whites will appear grainy. There is quite some time between beaten perfectly and overbeaten, so as long as you pay attention, you shouldn’t have a problem.

The essential thing is that the beaters and bowls should be perfectly clean. You can also use a balloon whisk and a copper bowl if you have them. I used to do it this way but it really kills your arm and wrist (esp. if this isn’t something you’re used to doing everyday). If you’re using a stainless steel bowl clean it with a bit of vinegar and salt, wiped completely off with paper towels. There’s a long explanation of how this works here so I’ll move on.

[Although that site mentions that plastic bowls should not be used, I have since found that plastic is a negligible factor as long as your mixer is powerful enough. I really should become a dealer for DLX the way I tell people how much I love their mixer. I remember crinkling my nose when I got the plastic bowl and double whisks with my DLX. After using the KA I was convinced it was the only thing that could get me perfect egg whites. Was I wrong! The DLX beats perfect egg whites in just 3-5 minutes, it’s THAT powerful.]

After you’ve beaten the egg whites — we’re going to call it a meringue now– transfer it to a 10″x15″ baking sheet, lined with wax paper and sprayed with cooking spray. Spread evenly and smooth the top with an offset spatula. If you want you can use a comb (available at cake decorating shops) or a fork to make decorative ridges in the meringue. Bake at 350 degrees F. Now here’s where I mess up, because I forget the original recipe and go by feel/look. I *think* it’s 25 minutes or so, but the meringue should puff up and turn a beautiful light golden brown.

While you’re baking the meringue, put the egg yolks in a non-stick skillet with the condensed milk. Cook over low-medium heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Continue to stir until mixture becomes pasty. I cannot give further instructions other than to say that you will learn how to do this properly only with practice. I’ve done it many times but I still make mistakes. Last time I made this I wasn’t paying much attention and overcooked the yolks. It felt like taffy instead of melt-in-your-mouth. Just remember that the yolks will continue to cook for a while after you take it off heat. One way to get around this is to cook the yolks just until you think it’s done, take it off heat and set the pan in a larger bowl or pan with cold water and ice cubes, that way it cools off much faster and you can see the results right away and make the necessary adjustments. It’s always better to undercook the yolks than overcook them because if need be you can always reheat the skillet to cook them some more. Stir in the vanilla extract when done.

After you’ve baked the meringue, take it out of the oven. It will deflate to its original volume. Do not worry, that’s the way it is. Work a knife under the wax paper to make sure it will release properly. Lay a sheet of wax paper on top of the meringue, then put a similar-sized baking sheet right side up on top (baking sheet bottom should touch the wax paper on top of the meringue). Holding both sheets firmly, flip them over with one swift motion. Lift off the pan holding the meringue, and peel off the wax paper carefully. Don’t worry if there are small portions that stick as they will not be visible when the brazo is assembled.

With a long side facing you, transfer the cooked yolk-mixture on top of the meringue, spreading evenly. It should be a long strip along the lower third of the meringue. Using the bottom wax paper, carefully lift the meringue up to roll forward. Keep rolling until the meringue encloses the yolk-mixture (you should have at least 1/3 of the meringue left at the top) at which point, carefully peel off the wax paper so you can continue rolling, until the yolk-mixture is completely enclosed and the meringue overlaps. (The process is similar to making maki sushi, so if you’ve done that, you can do this!) The meringue should be seam side down. If you are serving now, take the wax paper off, transfer to a serving platter, and sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar. Otherwise, keep the wax paper on and store in the refrigerator on a baking sheet or in a cake box. When ready to serve, remove wax paper and sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.

(My) Variations: Add chopped nuts to the yolk-milk mixture, or bits of praline. A nice touch would also be caramelized sugar pulled into endless strings, sorta like what you would use for a croquembouche or a buche de noel. You could also serve slices of these atop some caramel sauce — that should take you as far into sugar and cholesterol heaven as you’d like to go:).

Someone was asking for the nutritional information for Brazo de Mercedes so here it is:

Assuming that the whole brazo was cut into 10 equal servings, and you only ate one:-D, here’s what you would get

276 calories
9.3 grams protein
8.45 grams fat:
3.72 gms saturated fat,
2.87 gms monounsaturated fat
.8 polyunsaturated fat
41.4 grams carbohydrate
113.7 mg sodium
233 mg potassium
447 IU Vitamin A
226 mgs cholesterol

Obviously this is not something you’d want to eat everyday.

Disclaimer: The numbers given above are approximations and based on raw ingredients. For dietary advice, talk to your nutritionist or your doctor.