We like a pavlova in place of a wedding cake, but such an impressive centrepiece is worthy of any celebratory moment. Use peaches, poached quinces, raspberries, or anything else that is in season.
|For the meringue:|
|10||large free-range egg whites|
|20ml||white wine vinegar|
|For the filling:|
|1kg||blackberries – about 6 punnets|
|the juice of ½ a lemon|
|1 ltr||double cream|
|a little caster sugar, to taste|
|1 tsp||vanilla extract|
You will need: an electric whisk.
Place the egg whites, vinegar and vanilla into a spotlessly clean bowl and whisk on a medium speed until soft peaks form. At this point start to add the caster sugar little by little, whisking as you go, until all the sugar is incorporated. Once stiff peaks have formed, add the cornflour and whisk again quickly, on a high speed. You will have a smooth, glossy, malleable mass.
Line three large flat baking trays with parchment and make a mound of egg white on each one: the first mound should be double the size of the second, the second should be double the size of the third. Flatten the mounds into discs and bake in a low oven for up to 3 hours, until the first signs of gold appear, then turn the oven off and wait for it to cool – the result will be crisp without and fluffy within.
Take one punnet of blackberries (around 150g) and sprinkle with lemon juice (like salt on meat, lemon juice makes fruit taste more of itself), then blitz them to make a sauce. In a new bowl add a little sugar to the cream according to taste, remembering that the meringue is very sweet, then add the vanilla extract and whisk to just beyond the ribbon stage. There should be enough structure to make a heap, but a gooeyness is highly desirable.
Now, the glorious assembly! Take the largest disc of meringue, spread it generously with cream and throw a handful of blackberries into the centre. Top with the next disc, more cream, a few more berries in the centre, then finally the last piece of meringue, a proud heap of cream and all the rest of the berries, heaped and tumbling down the sides. To serve, pour the blackberry sauce over the top and sides of your beautiful mountain, running down in rivulets.