All my life I’ve been a chocolate girl. Chocolate and peanut butter to be specific…or caramel, or toffee, or….
See me at the movies and I’ll be cradling a sack of Reeses Pieces, Milk Duds or for a lighter treat, Junior Mints. On rare occasions, I’ll swing for Sour Patch Kids (there’s just something about that citric acid eating away at my tongue) but generally, my sweet tooth gravitates towards the earthy sweetness of chocolate rather than the saccharine intensity of say, frosting. But that all changed when I met the meringue.
When developing recipes for our “White Christmas” story (Everyday with Rachael Ray, Dec/Jan 2011) my colleague, Diana Sturgis, remembered her cousin making meringues during the holiday season and she started to tinker with one of her own. Sure, I had nibbled on a chocolate chip meringue cookie here and there, but I’d never tasted a fresh-baked hunk of chewy on the inside, crispy on the outside, marshmallow-y meringue. Now I’m hooked. It seems that every dessert is improved by meringue. I’ve stacked it between tiers of layer cake, sandwiched ice cream between it, and floated it atop fruit soup. But my favorite is still Diana’s classic Pavlova.
Tropical Fruit Pavlova
Sweet, crunchy, tart and creamy, this fruit filled Pavlova hits every spot. Great for an informal dinner, it’s rich enough to follow to a hearty winter meal, but not overwhelmingly heavy, with an airy texture and refreshingly tart fruit center. Along with citrus, tropical fruits like mangos, are the most seasonal fruits of winter.
On the platter, this rustic but impressive dessert is as pristine and fluffy as the winter snow, but the pop of color when you slice in will send your guests into a round of applause (seriously!) Make the meringue up to 24 hours ahead and assemble the dessert just before serving.
Serves 8 to 10
6 egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups superfine sugar, divided
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar
2 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
2 ripe mangos, cut into bite-sized cubes
6 ounces raspberry puree (see below for recipe)
Preheat oven to 250°. Line a baking sheet with parchment and outline a 10-inch circle on the paper. Using a standing mixer with the whisk attachment, or electric beaters, beat the egg whites and salt at medium speed until soft peaks form, about 3 minutes.
With the mixer running at medium-high speed, gradually add 1 1/2 cups of the sugar until the whites are stiff and glossy, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together the cornstarch and 1 tablespoon sugar. (*Mixing the cornstarch with some sugar keeps the cornstarch from clumping in the meringue batter – an expert tip from seasoned baker, Diana Sturgis!) Use a spatula to fold in the vinegar and the cornstarch mixture.
Spoon the meringue onto the parchment to evenly fill the circle. Use the back of the spoon to make a shallow well in the center of the meringue, about 1 inch deep and 4 inches wide. Bake for 45 minutes; lower the temperature to 200° and bake for 1 hour longer. Turn off the heat, set the oven door ajar and let the meringue sit in the oven for 30 minutes more, to dry out the meringue. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on the pan. Use a metal spatula to loosen meringue from the parchment and slide it onto a serving platter.
Stir ¼ cup of the sugar into the raspberry puree. Whip the cream, almond extract and remaining 3 tablespoons sugar at medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Spoon the mango into the hollow, drizzle with the raspberry puree, then cover entirely with whipped cream. Serve immediately.
You can buy fruit purees in gourmet and specialty food stores or just make your own. It’s also great on ice cream or poured over chocolate cake!
1 16-ounce bag frozen raspberries, thawed
In a food processor, puree raspberries until smooth. Strain puree through a fine mesh sieve to remove the seeds. Store refrigerated for about 10 days or freeze. Sweeten to taste before serving. Makes about 1 1/3 cups.
Notes: If you make the meringue ahead, store it in air tight container. I’ve also stored mine in the oven (off) with good results
Humidity and high moisture can foil a meringue. The technique I call for with leaving meringue in warm oven after baking does help mitigate a moist climate.
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