Vacherin aux fruits de la passion

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Meringues with passion fruit and vanilla ice cream

Meringues are simple to prepare — and at the same time complex. The simplicity is in the preparation: beating egg whites with sugar. That’s all. The complexity is in the baking: every oven heats differently, so you will need to vary the procedure according to your oven’s character. The aim is to have the meringues turn out just barely crisp on the outside, tender on the inside and no darker than the palest nuance of ivory.

This recipe was inspired by the chef Daniel Rose, who serves vacherin with passion fruit at his Paris restaurant, Spring.

2 egg whites at room temperature
1/3 cup (60 g.) superfine white sugar

1/3 cup (60 g.) powdered icing sugar
1/2 cup whipping cream, chilled
2 tsp. sugar
1 pint (1/2 liter) vanilla ice cream
6 passion fruit
1-2 tbsp. sugar

Preheat your oven to gas mark 1 or its lowest temperature setting (275 F. or 135 C.).

In a medium-sized bowl with a narrow bottom, beat the egg whites until they form foamy peaks. Add the sugars and continue beating until the whites form stiff peaks. When you turn off your electric beater and lift it from the whites, they should remain firmly upright and not flop over.

Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using two large spoons, form the beaten egg whites into 6 mounds on the baking sheet. Smooth the mounds with the back of a clean spoon to eliminate stray peaks. Place in the oven.

The meringues should bake for about an hour, but now comes the tricky part. You need to monitor the temperature and at the slightest sign of browning turn off the oven. Some recipes propose blocking the oven door slightly ajar throughout the baking process. Others propose turning the oven off after 10 minutes and leaving the meringues inside for up to six hours to dry out. As my oven is quite hot, even at the lowest temperature, I’ve found the best solution is to turn the oven off and on a few times during the first hour, and then leave the meringues inside to dry out for another hour.

Once the meringues are ready, they will keep well — making it easy to assemble the dessert just before it is brought to the table. But take the next two steps before guests arrive.

1) Whip the cream until it is light and fluffy. Whip in 2 tsp. sugar. Set aside in the fridge.

2) Cut each passion fruit in two and scoop the pulpy interior into a small bowl. Add 1-2 tbsp. sugar to the combined pulps — the amount depends on their natural sweetness. You want to cut the tartness without making the pulp overly sweet. Set aside in the fridge.

Take the ice cream out of the freezer to soften five minutes before beginning the assembly.

Cut the meringues in half crosswise. Spoon the passion fruit mixture into 6 shallow bowls or onto 6 small plates. Top each with the bottom half of a meringue, then a scoop of ice cream, a dollop of whipped cream and the top half of the meringue. Serves 6.

If passion fruit is not available, substitute another soft fruit. Mango, raspberries or strawberries work brilliantly if puréed with a little sugar. Or you can use whole raspberries or blueberries and top with a spoonful of cassis (black currant liqueur).

* Chosen by FrenchEntrée.com to celebrate 100 issues of FrenchEntrée magazine


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