One of my favourite things to make around the holidays is a pavlova. A pavlova is a round, pie shaped meringue, filled with curd or custard and topped with cream and fruit. It’s positively delicious. Last year I made one my mother-in-law loves to make, called angel pie. It’s a white meringue, filled with lemon filling and topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit. I’m sure it’s called angel pie because it tastes so heavenly.
Looking for holiday dessert ideas, I was flipping through a 2010 Food & Drink Magazine from the LCBO, when I saw a recipe for individual meringues filled with blackberry jam and whipped cream. I just knew I’d have to try them.
The meringues are quite sweet, with a crispy outer shell, and a nice and chewy marshmallow texture on the inside. In this desert, the sugary sweetness of the meringue, is balanced by the whipped cream and little pockets of blackberry jam filling. The burst of fresh blackberry on the top, cuts through the cream and meringue and cleanses your palette, for a nice clean finish.
The result is a really delicious and satisfying desert that may seem simple, but really delivers through layers of tastes and textures. You have the outer crunchy shell of the meringue, followed by a soft chewiness of the centre, filled with a smooth whipped cream flavoured with vanilla, that’s complimented by ribbons of blackberry preserves, and topped with a luscious berry bursting with natural juice and sweetness.
The recipe originally called for bits of white chocolate and vanilla in the meringue but when I added them, the meringue lost it’s thickness and I ended up with meringue puddles when I piped it onto the parchment. So I started over with just a plain meringue, of egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar. Once I did that, I was able to pipe the little nests without any trouble at all and they stayed up nice and high so that the filling could easily nestle inside, with the jam.
The trick to these meringues is to keep the jam and whipped cream separate until they are being piped into the meringue. That way you get layers and pockets of jam, instead of a uniform purple blackberry cream, which is fine too, but if you want the two-tone texture you see in my photos, you don’t want to over mix them. A fold or two, before filling the pastry bag should be enough. And remember, once the blackberry jam and whipped cream are pushed through the pastry bag in order to fill the nests, they will mix together even more.
3 large egg whites, room temperature
1/4 tsp (50 ml) cream of tartar
3/4 cup (150 ml) of superfine sugar
1 cup (250 ml) whipping cream
1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla
1/4 cup (50 ml) blackberry preserves, I used Smucker’s with good results
1. Preheat oven to 200 °F (105 °C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
2. In a large, especially clean bowl, use an electric mixer to beat whites on low-speed, until foamy. As the whites begin to whiten and foam, add the cream of tartar and beat on medium high-speed until soft peaks form. Add the superfine sugar, also commonly referred to as castor sugar by the spoonful (I used Instant Dissolving Sugar, by Redpath, because it was the only superfine sugar I could find, and it dissolves instantly when added to moisture. Instant Dissolving Sugar by Redpath, used to be called, Fruit Powder Sugar). Beat well after each addition until all of the sugar has been incorporated, the whites are stiff and glossy and when you press a bit of the mixture between your thumb and index finger it doesn’t feel gritty, about 6 minutes.
3. Spoon half the mixture into a piping bag (I used a Wilton 14″ Piping Bag ) fitted with a swirl piping tip (I used Wilton tip #1M). If you don’t have a pastry bag you can make one by cutting a corner off of a large plastic ziplock bag. Pipe the mixture into a 1-inch (2.5cm) rosettes, in rows onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving a “nest” in the center of each. Bake in the preheated oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour (the time will vary depending on the humidity of the environment), until they are crisp and dry. Turn off the oven and leave the door ajar until the oven and meringues are completely cool (they are best if left overnight).
4. In a bowl, beat the whipping cream with a whisk or mixer until you see soft peaks begin to form. Add vanilla and sugar and beat again until incorporated and soft peaks are formed. Gently fold in the blackberry preserves with a spatula (being careful not to overmix) and fill a pastry bag fitted with a Wilton tip #2A, half full. If you don’t have this tip you can use the piping bag without it, just as well. Pipe the blackberry cream into cooled meringue nests just before serving. Garnish each meringue with a blackberry and serve immediately.
This recipe is very versatile. You can replace the berries and jam with one of your favourite flavours. I think it would be absolutely gorgeous and delicious with strawberries, raspberries, or even peaches. You may want to keep the recipe handy as summer fruits begin to ripen and flavours peak, your family and friends will be delighted.
Good luck & enjoy!