I’m back from a long weekend of gluttony in Montreal the details of which I’ll share in another post, but first I wanted to follow up on the promise to deliver a strawberry recipe. This is my interpretation of the most delicious dessert I’ve ever eaten. It was served for dessert as part of our seven course “gourmet menu” at Restaurant Toqué in Montreal.
Since my first visit over 5 years ago, I’ve held Chef Normand Laprise’s cuisine in the highest regard. I’ve even called Toqué my favourite restaurant of all time. Since that first visit though, I’ve had the opportunity to try many wonderful restaurants and I worried that I’d be disappointed on my return. That concern was quickly put to rest after a course or two and I walked out practically glowing. While every course struck the perfect balance between creative and delicious, the dessert was the real humdinger.
It was a bowl of fresh strawberries covered with a white chocolate foam, crumbled meringue flakes, aerated maple candy and topped with a scoop of strawberry sorbet. It was sweet, tart, creamy, fluffy, refreshing, fruity, cool and crisp all at the same time. Definitely something that would be a part of my last meal on Earth.
With this version, you get thin layers of crisp meringue with rich creamy dollops of white chocolate mousse and maple sweetened strawberries. It’s not quite the same, but it was simple enough to prepare on a weeknight and almost as tasty.
makes enough for 4
for the meringue
1 egg white
1/4 C powdered sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
for the mousse
1/2 C heavy cream + 1 1/2 Tbs cream
3 oz good quality white chocolate (I used Callebaut)
1/2 pint strawberries hulled, halved and sliced
1 Tbs grade B maple syrup
1 tsp lemon juice
Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
Whip the egg whites in the bowl of a clean (if there are any oils on your bowl or whisk, the egg whites will not whip) electric mixer until soft peaks form. Add the sugar a little bit at a time until fully incorporated and the meringue is glossy. Add the vanilla and whip to combine.
Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper and spread the meringue into a very thin even layer. You could also pipe the meringue with a small round tip if you want to make it less rustic looking.
Bake the meringue for about 45 minutes. It’s a bit tough to tell when it’s cooked because it will still feel a little soft even when it’s done (it crisps as it cools). If you bake it too long, it will start to brown, but if you bake it too little you’ll have a soft gooey mess, so if in doubt, leave it in a little longer.
Allow the meringue to cool then gently separate it from the mat. If it breaks it’s fine as you’ll want to break it into smaller pieces anyhow.
While the meringue is in the oven, melt the white chocolate with 1 1/2 Tbs of cream stirring till smooth then let it cool down till it’s lukewarm. Whip the cream until soft peaks are just starting to form. Add the melted white chocolate in 2 additions then whip until the cream holds soft peaks (be careful not to over whip it or you’ll end up with butter). Refrigerate the cream until you’re ready to assemble the pavlovas.
For the strawberries, just clean, hull, halve, then slice them and toss with the maple syrup and lemon juice. You could use any type of maple syrup, but I personally like grade B because it’s darker and has more maple flavour.
To assemble, just put a dab of mousse on the plate to hold the first piece of meringue in place. Top with a dollop of mousse then spoon some strawberries on top. Cover with another piece of meringue, topping with more mousse and strawberries. Finish with a third piece of meringue and top with a bit more mousse and a garnish (I used strawberries sliced in half). Serve immediately as the meringue will start to absorb the liquid and go soft very quickly.