Monday, March 1, 2010

Pretty much the best dessert for a summer dinner party - Strawberry Ice-cream cake with pistachio meringue

Dinner at Eloise's place on Sunday. We are to sample the results of her attending a cooking class in Vietnam. So I offered to make dessert. But what would go with a Vietnamese dinner on the 3rd day of +40C weather in a row. Ice cream, sorbet and meringue. Very very delicious. The meringue ends up soft and chewy. This is great. It could really be made up to a week in advance and left in the freezer as long as it is well sealed - perfect dinner party material. It has serious wow-factor too. Make sure you keep the egg whites from the custard for the meringue or vice versa depending on the order you make this. I managed to avoid this step and ended up using twice as many eggs as really necessary.

You will need an ice-cream maker and two days to make this dish. Given that instruction - it is not difficult and not time consuming. You just need time for it to set. My next investment - a real ice-cream maker that doesn't require pre-freezing the bowl and a blast freezer. Sounds expensive! If you want to get fancy - call it a "Frozen Strawberry and White wine Vacherin". Recipe adapted from Gourmet Traveller. Stand at room temperature for 5 minutes before cutting.

Strawberry Sorbet
120g caster sugar
120mL water
500g fresh strawberry puree, strained
70mL good white wine (I used a Sauvignon Semillon Blanc)

Combine sugar and 120mL water in a saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally. Cook for 1 minute the cool completely. Combine with strawberries and wine. Freeze until ice crystal start to form then fluff it around with a fork. Continue this process until you end up with a nice fluffy/icy sorbet. Alternately you can freeze it in an ice cream maker. Return to the freezer and seal well until ready to assemble the cake.

Strawberry Ice-cream
250g fresh strawberry puree, strained
400mL pouring cream
160mL milk
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
80g caster sugar
4 egg yolks
30 mL strawberry liqueur
Juice of one lime

Bring the cream, milk and vanilla beans to a simmer over medium heat. In the meantime, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until creamy and thick and the sugar is dissolved. Try not to make them bubbly. Pour the cream mixture over the top of the eggs, whisking continuously to avoid scrambled eggs.

Return the mixture to the pan. Stir continuously over low heat until the mixture thickens, coats the back of a spoon and does not taste 'eggy' anymore (7-8 minutes). Do not boil the mixture. Strain through a fine sieve into a bowl in an ice water bath.

Add the strawberries, lime juice and liqueur. Freeze in an ice-cream maker. Seal well and store in the freezer until required.

Pistachio Meringue
150g egg whites
150g caster sugar
150g icing sugar
15g cornflour
150g ground pistachios
Zest of one lime

Preheat the oven to 100C. Draw three 22cm circle templates by tracing along the inside of a 22cm springform cake tin. Turn over the baking paper so you don't end up with pen/pencil on the bottom of your meringues.

Whisk eggwhites and a pinch of salt until soft peaks form. With the motor running, add caster sugar in a thick steady stream and continue mixing until you have stiff peaks and the mix is thick and glossy. Sieve over the icing sugar and cornflour, add pistachios and lime zest and fold through gently with a large metal spoon.

Carefully make three discs on the prepared templates, smoothing the top but not squashing out the air.

Bake until crisp but not coloured - 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 hours. Turn off the oven and leave meringues to cool completely in the oven. Store in an airtight container until ready to assemble.

Strawberries, hulled, cut into wedges and sprinkled with sugar - to serve

Place a meringue disk in the base of a 22cm diameter ring from a springform pan, lined with glad wrap and on a baking-paper lined tray. Trim edges to fit as necessary. Spread a 2cm layer of strawberry ice-cream over meringue. Any remaining ice-cream must be eaten by the cook at this stage. Smooth the top. Place another meringue disc on top and press gently. Freeze until firm.

Spread a 2cm layer of sorbet over meringue. Smooth the top and eat the leftovers. Place remaining disc on top. Cover well with glad wrap and freeze overnight or until firm.

To serve. Take out of freezer 5 minutes before serving. Serve on a chilled platter. Pile the strawberries on top. Cut into slices with a sharp knife. Expect no leftovers.

Serves 9 generously. Could stretch to feed 12 but best for 10!

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