Sunday, June 3, 2012

Strawberries and Cream Vacherin

Here’s a great summer dessert that’s really easy to put together, yet makes a dramatic presentation at a spring or summer dinner party. The jewel in this dessert is a homemade strawberry sorbet, made 

with local berries (don’t even bother making it with those over-sized cottony supermarket numbers; a good fruit sorbet is all about the quality of the ingredients). It comes together quickly in a blender 

and has the fresh, tart taste of summer days, when berries are at their peak. After a few hours of chilling in the fridge, it’s run through an ice cream machine where it turns into one of the best

 sorbets you’ll ever taste. And when matched up with some store-bought vanilla ice cream and crunchy meringue rounds, this dessert is a memorable combination, refreshing, but just rich enough to satisfy any dessert lover’s after-dinner cravings. It’s like an adult creamsicle, flavored with strawberry instead of orange.

Strawberries and Cream Vacherin

Makes 4 servings

Special equipment: four 3-inch diameter ring molds that are about 2 inches high

Meringue Rounds:
3 large (90 g) egg whites, at room temperature
1/3 cup plus 2 Tbsp (90) granulated sugar
¾ cup (80) confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Strawberry Sorbet:
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
3 cups water, divided
1 pound fresh, local strawberries
Juice of 1 lemon

1 ½ pints vanilla ice cream
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
A few strawberry slices for garnish

Make the Meringue Rounds:
1. Preheat the oven to 175°F. Line a half-sheet pan with a piece of parchment paper. Using a 3-inch ring mold as a guide, draw at least 8 circles on the parchment paper. Turn the paper over on the pan.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites at medium speed until soft peaks begin to form. Gradually add the granulated sugar and whip at high speed until the meringue forms stiff peaks. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand and gently fold in the sifted confectioner’s sugar. Transfer the meringue to a pastry bag fitted with a medium, plain tip (Ateco #5) and pipe out eight 3-inch rounds on the paper, spiraling the meringue from the center out. Pipe out some 2-inch long sticks and kisses with the extra meringue, if you like. Bake the rounds 2 hours, or until they are dry and crisp. Turn the oven off and leave the meringues in the oven for another hour. Cool completely.

Make the sorbet:
3. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar with 1 ½ cups of the water and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Remove the pan from the heat, and cool the syrup completely.
4.  Wash and hull the fresh strawberries and place them in a blender with the lemon juice. Blend until completely pureed and smooth.
5. In a medium bowl, combine the strawberry puree with the cooled syrup and remaining 1 ½ cups water. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours.
6. Process in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer the sorbet to an airtight container and freeze until ready to serve.

Assemble the desserts:
7. Half fill the 4 ring molds with Strawberry Sorbet, packing it down to fill any air pockets. Fill the remainder of each mold with vanilla ice cream and freeze the molds for at least 3 hours, until firm.
8. Place a meringue round on each serving plate. Unmold each dessert by placing it on an inverted cup and wrapping a hot, damp towel around the mold (or use a blowtorch to warm the sides of the mold). Slip off the mold by pushing it down. Place each dessert on a meringue round and top with another round. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and garnish with strawberry slices and meringue sticks and kisses.