Maine-grown strawberries are just starting to ripen, and we can never eat too much of this luscious, juicy red fruit at the height of the season. My husband’s favorite dish, fresh strawberries with cream sounds simple, but to get the maximum flavor and enjoyment, it needs to be made a very particular way.
The strawberries must sun-ripened, fresh and fragrant. The evenly red fruit, cut into identical-sized thin slices, sprinkled with sugar, is allowed to marinate until the juices run clear. It is only then that the strawberries are ready for a dollop of heavy whipped cream.
My fresh strawberry eating preference takes this preparation one step further by adding a light and fluffy biscuit to sop up the goodness of the berry juices.
Paris strawberry shortcake is similar to old-fashioned strawberry shortcake, except a sweet, light and airy meringue serves up the fruit, instead of the calorie-dense biscuit.
Once you get the knack of it, meringue shells are relatively simple to prepare. Egg whites beaten with sugar until thick, shaped and then dried, meringue creations are used by talented pastry chefs for all sorts of edible decorations. This recipe, adapted from the Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum, produces shells that are extremely light and airy.
FRENCH MERINGE SHELLS
- 4 large egg whites at room temperature (.5 liquid cup or 120 grams)
- ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
- ½ cup (4 ounces or 115 grams) superfine sugar *
- 1 cup powdered sugar (4 ounces or 115 grams)
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil.
- In the bowl of your mixer, beat the egg whites until frothy, add the cream of tartar, and continue to beat at medium speed while gradually adding 2 tablespoons of sugar. When soft peaks form, increase the speed to high, and add another tablespoon of sugar. When stiff peaks form, add the remaining sugar and beat until very stiff and glossy.
- Sift the powdered sugar over the meringue and gradually fold it in.
- Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag. Shape shells on prepared pans. Bake for 2 – 2.5 hours at 200 degrees. The shells should be dry, but not starting to turn brown. Store in an airtight tin at room temperature until ready to use.