I invented this recipe this year for my mom’s birthday. She usually wants this sickening strawberry cake from a French bakery, but the bakery I usually (and reluctantly) get it from closed down. She decided this year that she wanted something light, not cake, so I needed to think of something that fit the bill.
My mom’s birthday happens to be in August, so this was the perfect dessert for a hot summer evening. Still, even though it’s cold out, this is the perfect dessert for after a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner. Nothing is better than crisp meringue, creamy vanilla cream, and fresh fruit with a ruby-red pomegranate garnish. It’s light and it won’t weigh you down when you’re in for a little romance!
I use a vanilla bean in the recipe because I think the flavour is richer than vanilla extract, and I like the little black seeds dotting the whipped cream. Vanilla beans also look cool and I’m sort of fascinated by them. Vanilla extract works just fine though if you’re not into vanilla beans.
You can make this dessert with any fruit you want; I’ve made it with raspberries and blueberries, mango, and strawberries. The mango’s juice absorbs the lime flavor much better than a drier fruit like blueberries, but you can always cut whatever fruit you use into pieces to better expose it to the lime. You can make the fruit/lime/Grand Marnier mixture ahead of time and let it marinate. Feel free to add more booze to it too – it’s up to you.
I find Ataulfo mangoes a lot less stringy than the big Haden variety, and a lot sweeter too. They’re the small ones that look like this:
If your fruit isn’t super sweet, you may want to add a bit of fine sugar to it.
I usually cheat and use store-bought meringue nests, but make your own using egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar if you want, and I put the recipe below.
Alternately, if you find meringue cookies (or screw up your nests), you can break them into pieces and layer them in a glass with the fruit and whipped cream for a parfait.
Any way you do it, this dessert is perfection.
4 meringue nests – recipe follows
3 large or 4 small Ataulfo mangoes (about 2 cups of fruit)
2t fine sugar (fruit sugar/instant dissolving type)
zest of 1/2 lime – zest finely
1/3 vanilla bean or 1t vanilla extract
1t Grand Marnier
Pomegranate seeds for garnish
1 small container whipping cream (237ml)
Peel and slice the mangoes and place into a bowl.
Add the lime zest and Grand Marnier and set aside.
Pour the whipping cream into a bowl and add the sugar and seeds from the vanilla bean. If you haven’t dealt with vanilla beans before, you first cut off the part you want:
With a sharp knife, make a cut lengthwise down the bean:
Using a spoon, scrape the little seeds out and add to your unwhipped cream:
Whip the cream until soft peaks form.
Set the meringue nests onto a platter.
Layer the whipped cream and fruit onto the nests, and garnish with pomegranate seeds.
Meringue Nests – this recipe makes 8 nests, so you’ll have a few left over.
3 egg whites
1/4t cream of tartar
¾ cup sugar
½t vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 275F.
Beat room-temperature egg whites and vanilla until soft peaks form, add sugar slowly and continue beating until stiff peaks form.
Using a spoon, drop 8 large dollops of the egg white mixture onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. You can also pipe the nests using a pastry bag.
Use the back of a spoon to form an indent in the dollops.
Bake the nests for 45-50 minutes until they’re dry, then turn off the oven and leave the nests in there, with the door closed, for another hour.
Store the nests in an airtight container. They are amazing with ice cream, just saying…