Layers of meringue, fruit, and whipped cream become a simple yet sublime dessert that's perfect for a summer evening. Alex Hitz shows us how to make summer berry pavlova with bourbon whipped cream.
Have you ever seen anything so gorgeous?! This is a masterpiece of a dessert, a show-stopper made from meringue, whipped cream, and the bounty of berries that is the great gift of summer. It's a dish that makes you say, "I just can't wait to make this!" And the elegant presentation will — I have no doubt — completely mesmerize your friends. Don't let on how easy it is. Just let 'em think you've knocked yourself out.
Pundits who are more scientific than I am about cooking make lots of assertions about meringue, so if you're interested, please do read up on it. If not, just follow my instructions and let the meringue sit in the oven overnight — without opening the oven door — to make sure it fully dries out. It'll be great. I think any meringue that isn't pearl white is just not quite right, but please know that even if it does brown ever so slightly, it'll still taste good. Meringue is so much fun to make, and so easy, that I am sure you'll want to experiment again and again. You'll have it mastered in no time flat.
I can just see it now: a balmy summer evening, you and your friends sitting outside at a wood table outfitted with flickering hurricane candles, wicker placemats, and blue-and-white gingham napkins. You're enjoying funny stories, cold white wine, and locally caught fish fresh off the grill (with a little of the beurre blanc I told you about last month spooned on top). There's a heaping platter of Silver Queen corn on the cob and an inviting plate filled with mouthwatering, in-season sliced tomatoes and fresh basil from the garden. What's for dessert? Summer berry pavlova with bourbon whipped cream.
Perfect! Please let me know when you're serving it, because I'll drop whatever I'm doing to come join you.
BERRY PAVLOVA WITH BOURBON WHIPPED CREAM
For the Meringue
6 egg whites, at room temperature
2 cups superfine sugar
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
¼ teaspoon salt
1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees, and line two heavy baking sheets with parchment. Using a 9-inch cake pan and a pencil, draw a circle on the parchment on each baking sheet, then set aside.
2. Add all the ingredients to the bowl of an electric stand mixer, and whip them together at the highest speed for 5 to 6 minutes until the sugar is completely dissolved and you hear a palpable change in the tone of the mixer — from a high-pitched whine to a low hum. Check the meringue base to make sure it's thick, fluffy, and not too wet to handle without it falling back on itself. In other words, it should hold very stiff peaks.
3. Using a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip, pipe the meringue in concentric rows into the drawn circles on the parchment. (A secret: If you're not handy with a pastry bag, just take a rubber spatula and spread the meringue onto the drawn round. The result will be more rustic, but beautiful just the same.) Lower the oven to 200 degrees, and bake the meringues for 1½ hours. Turn the oven off, but leave the meringues in the oven overnight. Do not open the oven door until the next morning. The meringues should be perfectly white and not browned in the least. Note: They may be made up to three days in advance and stored in a dry place.
4. Place one meringue round on a serving platter. Top with half of the stewed fruit, then dollop randomly with half of the whipped cream. Place the second meringue round on top of the fruit and cream, and repeat the layering with the remaining fruit and cream. To serve, garnish with fresh mint.
For the Stewed Fruit
1 cup strawberries, stemmed
1 cup raspberries
1 cup blueberries
1 cup blackberries
¾ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons Chambord
Wash and dry the fruit. Add all the ingredients to a large, heavy saucepan, and heat over medium heat for approximately 5 minutes, until the fruit just begins to soften. Remove the saucepan from the heat, and let the mixture cool.
For the Bourbon Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon excellent-quality bourbon
Pour all the ingredients into the bowl of an electric stand mixer, and beat on medium speed until soft peaks form.
Photos by Luca Trovato