I don't know who decided it'd be this way, but strawberries seem to be the fruit of love. I get why--that luscious deep garnet hue of perfectly ripe strawberries, like the most precious stones. And all of us have nibbled a strawberry eccentrically shaped like a heart.
It was while walking through the aisles of the grocery store, getting ingredients for Valentine's Day dinner, that I spotted the box of unseasonably red strawberries in the produce aisle. Once I saw them, my mouth began to water and I longed for lazy summer afternoons, toes in the grass, just me and the berries.
Alas, it's February and our city-center flat distinctively lacks grass of any sort. Making lemonade, I decided to buy the strawberries anyway and put them to use in a different way. Thus, the strawberry shortstack--like a strawberry shortcake, just with the cake 86'd and swapped for vanilla meringues.
Although composed of many steps, here's the super easy recipe:
Components of the dish are pink meringues, vanilla whipped cream and boozy strawberry coulis. First off, you'll need 250 grams of fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced.
These aren't meringues in the lemon meringue pie sense of the word, these are crunchy, crispy, gooey meringues: egg whites whipped until they peak, doused in sugar and baked.
These are essentially, little mini pavlovas. Made exactly the same way, except, to bring out the vanilla in the dish, I've added vanilla sugar as well as caster sugar. I've also added powdered sugar to help enhance that smooth texture.
For the meringues you will need:
3 egg whites
1 to 2 drops of pink food coloring
100 grams of caster sugar
75 grams of powdered sugar
25 gram of vanilla sugar
*mix all of the sugars together*
Preheat your oven to 140 degrees celsius.
Using an electric mixer (if you want to build up the muscles in your arms, you can use a handheld whisk), beat the egg whites on high until stiff peaks form. You'll know when the egg whites have been whipped enough when you can tilt the bowl and even turn it upside down without the contents spilling out. I'm sure there's some other, more professional way to test this, if you were bothered.
Once your egg whites have been whipped into shape, you want to gradually add the sugars. I tend to add about a tablespoon at a time. You had a bit of sugar, then continue to mix with the electric mixer until you get your stiff peaks back. Beware: because you've added sugar to the egg whites, they will no longer stay in place if you were to tip the bowl. Continue adding the sugar bit-by-bit (much like ladling stock into a risotto!) and mixing until you get to the very last tablespoon. Now you add the food coloring and the final tablespoon of sugar. Voila. You have your pink meringues!
Spoon the meringues onto a paper-lined cookie sheet and bake for 50 minutes to an hour. Once the hour has passed, turn the oven off but leave the meringues in until the oven has cooled completely. This ensures nice crispy meringues with a slightly gooey center. The meringues have dried enough when you can easily pluck them from the cookie sheet.
Homemade Vanilla Whipped Cream
350 mls of double cream
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
2 teaspoons of powdered sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla sugar + some
Before beginning to make your cream, it is important that the bowl you use has been chilled.
Using an electric mixer, cream together the vanilla and the double cream until loose peaks form. Once you have loose peaks, sift over the sugar and cream together until you get stiff peaks.
Continue to beat the cream until it reaches the consistency you want. As pictured, that's the consistency I went for. Cover the bowl with cling film and let it sit in the fridge until you're ready to serve.
I must be honest. The coulis was super easy because I used ready made strawberry conserve for the base. Not just any strawberry conserve, though. For Christmas, my brother-in-law gave us a lovely festive food hamper from Marks and Spencer and nestled inside was a jar of strawberry conserve made with strawberries and oudinot champagne (probably the only time I'll taste this £138 bottle of champagne!).
You'll need 2 tablespoons of good quality strawberry jam or boozy conserve
1/3 of the strawberries, sliced
All you have to do is puree the conserve and the sliced strawberries in a food processor until it reaches the consistency you'd prefer, then decant to a bowl, cover with cling film and refrigerate until you're ready to serve. Easy peasy!
Mmmm. I think I'm going to go down and have leftovers ...