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Author Notes: The classic combination of meringue and strawberries gets a new twist in this recipe. Pistachios and brown sugar add a depth of flavor to the meringue, rose water perfumes the whipped cream and mascarpone filling, and everything comes together to highlight the luscious taste of ripe strawberries. This recipe was originally inspired by Nigella Lawson's Gooey Chocolate Stack. Summer, and leftover ingredients from a recent tryst with kheer (Indian rice pudding) inspired this version. You can locate pistachios and rose water at any Indian or Middle-Eastern store; if not, I'm sure the combination of almonds and pure vanilla would be equally delightful. This delicious dessert also happens to be gluten-free. - Heena —Heena
Food52 Review: As Stephanie, who first tested Heena's recipe said, "it's like pavlova revved up." The pistachio-laden meringue discs are a blend of chewy and crisp, and the combination of whipped cream and mascarpone lightly scented with rosewater and a dash of balsamic vinegar makes for a brilliant and delicious "glue" to hold the layers of this stack together. Mounds of fresh strawberries, macerated with sugar and a bit more rosewater (enough to evoke a summer garden without making them taste soapy), cut through the sweetness of the meringue and the mellowness of the cream. - A&M —The Editors
For the Meringue
- 6 large egg whites (at room temperature, make sure there is no trace of egg yolk)
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup brown sugar (not packed, processed in a food processor if crystals are large)
- 1 cup fine granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 cup pistachios, finely chopped
For the Berries and Cream
- 2 pounds strawberries
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon rose water
- 1 cup chilled heavy cream
- 1 cup mascarpone
- 1 tablespoon rose water
- Garnish (optional):
- 1 tablespoon pistachios, chopped or slivered
- Preheat the oven to 250?F (120?C).
- Lightly grease 3 8-inch round cake pans and line with parchment paper. Alternatively, line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper and draw an 8-inch circle on each one (you can use a cake pan as a guide to draw the circles).
- In a clean metal or glass bowl, whisk the egg whites with the salt till they hold soft peaks. Whisk in the sugars 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vinegar and whisk until the mixture looks glossy and holds stiff peaks. Fold in the chopped nuts, gently but thoroughly.
- Divide the meringue mixture equally between the 3 cake pans or 3 circles drawn on the baking sheets. Smooth the tops with the back of a round spoon. Bake until the tops are crisp and dry, an hour to 1 hour 15 mins. Switch off the oven and leave the pans in to cool for an hour with the door slightly ajar.
- While the meringues cool, halve or quarter the strawberries depending on their size. Place in a large bowl, sprinkle sugar and rose water over the berries, toss gently and let stand for half an hour.
- Beat cream and mascarpone with the rose water in a bowl until the mixture just holds stiff peaks.
- Invert the cooled meringue discs onto a plate and gently peel off the parchment paper. Invert onto another plate so they are right side up.
- Spread a third of the cream over one meringue disc, followed by a third of the strawberries. Repeat with the remaining meringue layers, cream and strawberries. Garnish with the slivered pistachios and serve.
- Do-ahead: Although the dessert must be assembled just before serving, the meringue layers can be made ahead of time -- they will keep well wrapped in parchment paper in an airtight container for up to a week.
- Your Best Strawberries Contest Winner!