Mary Berry, one of the judges from The Great British Bake Off made a beautiful meringue, not a crack or droop in sight. Mine did not look like hers, so the first time I made it I threw it away. Don’t do that. Julia Child often made comments about going easy on yourself in the kitchen— for example
not to worry if you drop something on the floor. Pop it back into the pan and no one will ever know the difference. A of couple pictures in one of her cookbooks show desserts that are a bit crispy around the edges, which wouldn’t stop me from eating them.
The first time I had this week’s recipe, I was in England at a summer party. I am not a big fan of meringue but I love this recipe. It is the perfect dessert any time of year but especially in the summer because there are so many fruit options, and as desserts go, this is light and satisfying. The meringue is crunchy and chewy; at the same time you get a taste of juicy fruit and whipped cream. The hard part about making this is letting go of your picture of Mary Berry’s meringue. It may come out of the oven picture perfect, but as it starts to cool, it can crack and droop. Don’t worry—this dessert is very forgiving, because you can cover up the cracks with whipped cream, fruit, and powdered sugar. No one will notice, I promise. They will be too busy eating.
I tried to cover up a crack or two the first time I ever made a cake. I was 11. The directions on the box said to mix the contents with an egg and some milk, pour the mixture into the cake pans, and put them in the oven. After 35 minutes when I took the pans out,they looked almost perfect, one of the layers had only a small crack in the middle— It got a bit bigger when I took it out of the pan to cool. When I turned the second pan over on to the cooling rack, the cake wouldn’t budge. Better to leave that layer in the pan than have big chunks of cake missing from the bottom. Once the cakes were cool, I opened the can of frosting and started frosting the bottom layer - the one stuck in the pan. Once it was completely covered, I placed the cracked layer on top, stuffing a spoonful or two of frosting into the hole. But it was thick and not easy to spread and made the crack bigger. As I worked my way across the top of the cake, it started to tilt to one side. Panicking, I desperately slathered frosting along the
sides of the cake to glue the whole thing together. Instead, the weight of the frosting tore the cake into three big chunks that fell on to the kitchen counter along with part of the bottom layer. We all had a bite or two that night. It didn’t taste that bad; it just didn’t look very appetizing.
Summer Fruit Pavlova
Adapted from Mary Berry
6 egg whites at room temperature
1¾ cups of granulated sugar
2 teaspoons of white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon of cornstarch
1 pint of strawberries stemmed and quartered
1 pint of blueberries
1 pint of raspberries
1 ½ cups of heavy whipping cream
powdered sugar for dusting the top
Preheat the oven to 325°
On a sheet of parchment paper, trace or draw a 10 inch circle. Turn the paper over so the circle is visible and place it on your baking sheet. Set aside.
Making the base:
In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the egg whites. When they start forming soft peaks, it is time to add the sugar a tablespoon at a time. Beat until the whites are glossy and very stiff (about 5 minutes). If you can hold the bowl upside down and the egg whites don’t move it is ready.
Next sprinkle the vinegar and cornstarch over the top of the meringue and gently fold it in until combined.
Spoon the meringue onto the parchment paper spreading it around until you get it just inside your circle. Using the back of the spoon make a slight indentation in the middle for the berries. Keep in mind that the meringue will change shape as it cools so don’t make the indentation too deep.
Place it in the oven and immediately turn the temperature down to 300°. Bake for one hour. Turn off the oven and leave the meringue in the oven to cool.
Once cool you can move it carefully to a platter and decorate.
Using the whisk attachment whip the heavy cream until it is thick. Carefully spoon it on to you base, billowing it over the top of your indentation. Starting with the strawberries, place the fruit a piece or two at a time on the pavlova spreading it around evenly. Repeat with the blueberries and finally the raspberries. Sprinkle the powdered sugar over the top and serve.
on the fruit: peaches and raspberries (a favorite fruit combination of mine), plums, and blueberries, mangoes and strawberries, or another fruit of your choice.
You can also use sorbet instead of cream, or even drizzle some melted chocolate over the top.
Written by: Claudia Alexander