This dessert is fun to make, and it’s not really difficult. The challenge is getting the meringues right — just barely crisp on the outside, tender on the inside and no darker than the palest nuance of ivory. Every oven heats differently, so you will need to keep a close eye on the meringues once you have put them in to bake.
Accessories include: a sheet of parchment paper, a wide-rimmed glass, a pencil and a pastry bag fitted with a tube with a largish opening (the size of the tip of your little finger). If you are missing any of these, not to worry — you can improvise, as described below.
Make sure the egg whites are at room temperature before beginning to beat them. In contrast, the cream should be very cold before being beaten.
3 egg whites at room temperature
1/2 cup (90 g.) superfine white sugar
1/2 cup (90 g.) powdered sugar (icing sugar)
1-1/3 cup (33 cl) whipping cream, chilled
1 tbsp. additional powdered sugar (icing sugar)
8 beautiful strawberries
8 beautiful raspberries
3/4 cup (80 g.) blueberries
1/2 tsp. vanilla, vanilla sugar, rum or cognac
Start by making the meringues. This may be done a day ahead of time.
Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Find a glass about 3 inches (8 cm) in diameter. Turn the glass upside down on the paper and outline it to draw four circles, not too close together.
Place the egg whites in a medium-sized bowl.
Measure the white sugar and pour into a little bowl. Measure the powdered sugar (icing sugar) into a separate bowl, pressing it through a sieve with the back of a spoon to break up any lumps.
Preheat your oven to gas mark 1 or its lowest temperature setting (250 F., 120 C.).
Beat the egg whites until they form foamy peaks. Add the half the white sugar and beat for about 30 seconds. Repeat with the other half. Now do the same with the powdered sugar. Continue beating the whites until they are satiny and form stiff peaks. When you turn off and lift your beater, the whites should remain upright and not flop over.
Using a rubber spatula or a spoon, transfer the meringue to a pastry bag fitted with a tube with a round opening. Fill in one of the parchment paper circles, starting in the middle and working out to the circumference. Now build up the outer rim with two more circles of meringue. Repeat to fill all four circles.
(If you don’t have a pastry bag, simply form the beaten egg whites into 4 mounds inside the circles on the parchment paper. Smooth the mounds with the back of a clean spoon to eliminate stray peaks. Then, after baking, scoop out the interior to make a shell.)
Place the meringues in the oven for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow them to dry out in the oven for 60 minutes more, or until they are firm and dry to the touch. Store in a dry place until ready to use.
Half an hour before whipping the cream, place a bowl in the fridge to chill. Pour the chilled cream into the chilled bowl and whip the cream until it is light and fluffy. Whip in 1 tbsp. powdered sugar and 1/2 tsp. vanilla, vanilla sugar, rum or cognac. Refrigerate.
Rinse and dry the strawberries. Slice off the bottoms, then slice the strawberries lengthwise into quarters. Have the raspberries and blueberries standing ready.
Assemble the dessert just before serving. Spoon a generous amount of whipped cream into each shell. Arrange eight strawberry pieces evenly around the perimeter of each circle, points facing outward. (Start at 12 o’clock, then 6, then 3 and 9, then fill in the spaces.) Set two raspberries at the edge of the center, then add a small mound of blueberries.