Pavlova under a meringue cloche
The idea for this meringue came from my all-time favourite cooking show: Masterchef Australia. I have watched two seasons (more than 60 episodes per season) and to my great frustration instead of continuing with the following season they are replaying the last one. How annoying can they be? I feel like writing to complain (can’t watch it online).
I love the Australian show for many reasons and learned a lot watching these amazing young contestants cook incredible food. Somehow these home cooks compete for the top spot while at the same time supporting and developing bonds with each other and the judges. This is in marked contrast to the American Masterchef where it’s fiercely competitive and contestants fight among themselves making it, for me, unpleasant to watch.
Masterchef Australia has cooking demonstrations by the judges and this meringue was featured in one of the demos by the judge George Calombaris, a Greek-Australian chef and restauranteur of considerable fame. He made a Swiss meringue (where you cook the egg whites and sugar over a double boiler prior to whipping) because the meringue then can be left to dry without the necessity of baking. He demonstrated spreading the meringue over inflated small balloons, let them air dry overnight and then released the air from the balloons (small puncture lets the air out slowly) and ended up with meringue cloches you can use to cover all kinds of desserts. I fell immediately in love with this idea (if you are a foodie you’ll understand) and have made it a few times since. It’s really not that hard, all you have to do is make the meringue.
Now, sometimes it doesn’t work: depending on the humidity in the air the meringue may not dry properly and stick to the balloons even after being left to dry for a long time. Sometimes the balloon deflates too fast and it breaks the meringue in the process. But, the recipe yields enough meringue for a few of these beauties so if some don’t work, well, you’ should have at least a couple of good ones. It happened to me too.
On Masterchef Australia the chef placed the dome over a small cake. I put the cloches over a meringue base topped with macerated berries and whipped cream. The freshness of the fruits, sweet and tangy berry sauce, luscious smooth whipped cream and crunchy meringue were having fun together on the plate and tasted delicious. I made the meringue base from the same batch of Swiss meringue and let them dry overnight as well. Alternatively just use fruits and ice cream or whipped cream under the cloche or use individual little cakes. There are many ways to serve this. The pinkish sprinkle you see is made with freeze dried strawberries that I ground to a powder in a food processor. In the summer I scattered small edible flowers over the cloche.
When you serve it tell your guests to tap the meringue dome with a spoon, it will fall apart revealing the dessert hiding under (see image below).
So, are you going to try it?
1 cup egg whites
2 1/2 cups sugar
A few freeze dried strawberries or raspberries ground to a powder
2 cup mixed berries
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup apricot jelly
1 cup whipping cream, whipped
2 cup raspberries
1/4 cup sugar
Place egg whites and sugar in a large mixing bowl and place over a pot with simmering water.
Whisk until the sugar dissolves.
Using an electric mixer begin mixing the egg whites in the bowl over the simmering water until fluffy, 7 minutes.
Blow up 4 small balloons and tie them up.
Holding the balloon round side up spread some of the meringue evenly over 4 or 6 balloons (see image) allowing for peaks to form here and there.
Sprinkle with just a little bit of the freeze dried berry powder.
Hang upside down to dry overnight (I use a pasta drying rack).
Use remaining meringue to create nests for the berries by piping a 3″ circle and then piping another layer around the parameters only (see image).
Let meringue nests dry on a baking sheet overnight, uncovered.
The next day release the domes by puncturing a small hole in the balloon allowing the air to escape in a slow stream. You should be left with an intact dome. Store at room temperature until needed.
Prepare the coulis: Combine the berries and sugar in a pot and cook until the sugar dissolves. Puree in a blender or an immersion blender.
Combine berries and sugar in a bowl (if you use strawberries halve them if necessary).
Melt the apricot jam, strain if there are any pieces in it and pour over the berries.
Whip the cream and sugar until soft and fluffy.
Place one meringue nest in each plate, top with whipped cream and then the berries.
To serve, cover each plate with a meringue dome.
Serve with raspberry coulis on the side and additional whipped cream.