It's berry season!
A - obviously - very cherished time of year that brings those much coveted gems of fruits. I was thrilled to find amazing tayberries, ollalieberries, blackberries, raspberries, boysenberries and strawberries during my recent runs at the Ferry Plazza Farmers Market. Their flavors and sweetness were just incredible.
There are a million ways at least to use them, the best remaining fresh, as they are, and often in the morning :). One of the 999,999 other ways is with pavlova, which I decided to make during a Sunday baking session. This great dessert is basically a meringue disc topped with fruits and whipped cream. It is relatively simple to make, albeit quite sweet. Berries, with their mild tartness and/or flavors can effectively tone down the sweetness.
I started from a pavlova recipe I found on Saveur. I am still experimenting with natural sweeteners, so I went ahead and substituted the white sugar for coconut palm sugar. Coconut sugar has a bolder, darker flavor and it added an interesting caramel-y taste to the meringue mix. Less of it is also needed. 2 cups would be enough for a rather sweet batter, and 1.5 cups would be better if you are looking for less sweetness. I did not have any distilled white wine vinegar, so, on a limb, I used a combination of rice vinegar and apple cider vinegar - which was ok.
But I also had some roasted hazelnuts. Roasted hazelnuts are much adored in my kitchen - where they don't last long so they are replenished sparingly :). They pair very well with most berries, so I was quickly on my way to make a roasted hazelnut meringue cake instead. I ground 1 cup of roasted hazelnuts and added it to the meringue mix, directly in the stand mixer, at slow speed.
I let the meringue bake in a round baking tin lined with parchment paper, for 1.5 hour at about 275F on average - i.e. about 300F for the first 30 minutes, and 240F thereafter (for home baking imprecise science is ok :)) - and let cool for 2 hours in the oven.
Once the cake was cool, I simply adorned it with berries and served it with whipped cream. No need to fiddle with the cream part. :)
By the way:
- While coconut sugar has the benefit of low GI, it is not low in FODMAP so I am still experimenting with it. A lower FODMAP option would be maple sugar; it would give a milder but lovely taste, something I have in mind to try some time.
- Hazelnuts are rich fiber and have great nutritional properties (so I can find a lot of good reasons to eat them :)).
- You could substitute the vinegar with lemon juice (same amount) or cream of tartar (1/2 tsp).
- When whisking the eggs in the stand mixer, I recalled tips seen on Food52: start whipping at slow speed to break the protein until the whites foam, then increase the speed. I also always add a pinch of salt right away though they recommend adding it once the whites have firmed (surely, they do it right, but habits are hard to break).
- This dessert is gluten-free. For a dairy-free option, you could use whipped coconut cream, flavored with vanilla or other flavoring of your choice.
- A little nod to the lovely flower by the cake: artichoke flower found at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.