For anyone who has seen my Facebook page Mama Molloy’s and wondered what the cover photo is, it is this. Strawberry vacherin is three tiers of meringue smothered in chocolate, cream and strawberries and for once with my baking, it looks as good as it tastes. It is relatively simple to make but assembly can be a bit tricky if your meringue is as delicate as it should be. Thankfully, you can use the chocolate and cream to glue together any bits that break apart.
This serves 6-8 people.
6oz Caster Sugar
7oz Dark Chocolate (grate 1oz of the chocolate)
450ml Double Cream (keep in the fridge until needed)
1tsp Vanilla Extract
2tsps Cinnamon (if you have any, doesn’t matter if you don’t)
12oz Strawberries (cut the tops off and cut into halves or quarters depending on their size)
Take two baking trays, grease with butter and line with baking paper. Onto one of the sheets of paper, draw two rectangles 10x25cm and onto the other sheet, draw one 10x25cm rectangle.
Pre-heat the oven to 120oC (250oF, Gas Mark ½).
Take the three eggs and one at a time separate the egg yolk from the white. The easiest way to do this is to crack the egg on a flat surface and then over a glass bowl (ceramic is also fine, but not plastic), open the egg into your hand, letting the white run through your fingers into the bowl, whilst keeping the yolk in your hand. Discard the yolks or save them for something else.
Whisk the eggs whites with an electric whisk (or a hand whisk if you don’t want to pay for a gym membership to get arms like a bear) until soft white peaks form – i.e. you can make peaks with the meringue by drawing the whisk out of the bowl but they collapse. Gradually whisk in half of the sugar until you get glossy stiff peaks (the peaks don’t collapse).
Using a metal spoon, fold in the rest of the sugar, the cornflour and the grated chocolate by dragging your spoon around the edge of the bowl in a complete circle and then pushing through the centre of the mixture from one side to the other. Repeat this action until everything is combined, but do not over-mix as you will lose volume from the meringue (we like meringue to be nice and loud…).
If you have a piping bag, transfer the meringue into the bag and use it to pipe columns of the mixture along the length of each rectangle on the baking paper. If you don’t have a piping bag, just split the meringue into three and paste onto the baking paper within the confines of the rectangle. The vacherin will be pretty much the same without a piping bag but won’t be as melt-in-the-mouth due to it being more stable and having a stronger structure.
Bake the meringue for 50mins and then turn off the oven with the meringue still inside. Allow the meringue to cool in the oven – this will stop it cracking.
Chop the remaining 6oz of chocolate into chunks and put in a glass bowl. Place the glass bowl over a pan of water on a low heat and melt the chocolate. Don’t let the water boil, it needs to just simmer (a few bubbles form rather than the whole surface of the water bubbling). Chocolate is melted in this way to prevent it from burning.
Let the chocolate cool a bit and take the meringue out of the oven. Coat two of the meringues with the chocolate and allow it to set. Once the chocolate is set, remove all three meringues from the paper, but be very careful as the meringue will break easily. Reserve some of the chocolate for later.
In a glass bowl, whisk the cream, vanilla and cinnamon until if forms whipped cream and then spread over the two chocolate coated meringues. Use some of the cream to make a column down the middle of the third meringue. Put strawberries on each layer and drizzle the remaining chocolate over the top of the third meringue.
Assemble the vacherin by placing the layers on top of each other with the non-chocolate coated layer on the top.
Feel free to be as arty as you like when assembling all the components of the vacherin. You can also use fruit other than strawberries if you wish but I think that the white, red and brown work well together. Then again, I am northern and therefore probably haven’t got a clue…