I had a few other recipes to share, but after getting a quick picture (and I mean quick because this dessert needs to be assembled and served immediately) and then devouring it after our Sunday dinner, I knew I had to get this one out there STAT with the berries still ripe at the market and my garden.
The recipe reminded me of a simple dessert of fresh strawberries dipped in sour cream and rolled in brown sugar that I enjoyed as a child. This dessert takes that childhood treat to a whole new level. The meringues are sweetened with brown sugar (this is a key departure from the usual granulated sugar). Then it is baked and cooled until crisp on the outside with a marshmallow-like texture on the inside. Next, it is layered with juicy berries and a whipped cream mixture; a comb that provides for texture and flavor in every sweet bite. The original recipe called for beating the cream with just sour cream, but I enjoy the tangy flavor of crème fraîche sweetened with a bit of sugar and vanilla.
Making the meringues may seem daunting, but really the only tricky part is keeping them dry once baked. First, make the meringues on a cool, dry day. Baking them with the windows open on a humid day will not make for good results. I also like to dry the meringues in the turned-off oven with the door slightly ajar until they are completely cool. That will ensure that they are completely dry. Since the meringues absorb moisture of any kind, this dessert must be assembled just before serving. Leftovers don't save, so make sure you have enough forks at the table to clean up every last crumb. That was certainly not a problem for us Sunday night-- scrumptious!
Three-Layer Berry and Brown Sugar Pavlova
For the Meringue
Unsalted butter and confectioners' sugar for the pans
1 cup superfine granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
3/4 cup egg whites (from 5 extra large eggs) at room temperature for 30 minutes
For the Berries
1 1/2 pounds strawberries, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 pound blackberries1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
For the Cream
1 cup chilled heavy cream
1/3 cup chilled crème fraîche or sour cream
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Position rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 275º F. Lightly butter three (8-inch) round cake pans and dust with confectioners' sugar, knocking out the excess. Line the bottom of the pans with rounds of parchment paper.
For the Meringues
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the superfine sugar, brown sugar, and cornstarch until well combined; set aside. In a small bowl, combine the vanilla and vinegar; set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites with a pinch of salt at medium speed until they hold soft peaks. Increase speed to medium-high and add the sugar mixture one tablespoon at a time. After all the sugar is incorporated, continue to beat for one minute more. Add the vinegar mixture, then beat at high speed until meringue is glossy and holds stiff peaks, about 5 minutes. Spoon the meringue into the prepared pans (about 2 1/2 cups or 173 grams per pan) and smooth the tops using an offset spatula.
Bake until the meringues have a crisp crust and feel dry to the touch, about 1 hour (insides should be moist and marshmallow-like). Turn the oven off and prop the door open slightly with a wooden spoon. Cool the meringues completely in the oven. (They will slightly collapse and crack.)
Run a knife along the insides of the pans and carefully turn out the meringues and remove parchment paper. (Meringues will be fragile and may crack further). Carefully turn meringues right side up; set aside until ready to assemble.
For the Berries
Toss the berries with the sugar and let stand at room temperature for up to an hour.
For the Cream
In a large chilled bowl, beat together the heavy cream, crème fraîche, sugar and vanilla using a wire whisk or an electric mixer until it just holds soft peaks.
Place one meringue on a serving platter and spread with 1/3 of the whipped cream. Spoon 1/3 of the berry mixture with juice on top of cream. Repeat layering with remaining meringues and fruit. Serve immediately. Enjoy!
Source: Adapted from Gourmet, July 2009