Strawberries have always been my favorite fruit. Usually with nothing more than a little sugar – just enough to get the juices flowing – and probably a tad too much freshly whipped cream on top, this is what I consider bliss. Well, considered bliss. This year, strawberries don’t really tickle my taste buds. At all. Oh, and adding insult to injury: it seems as if sweet cherries have quickly filled the vacancy!
The drama started last week, when I bought my first cherries this season. They sat on our counter, right next to a basket of wonderfully fragrant strawberries and a direct comparison was inevitable. While I usually can hardly constrain myself and am all over my strawberries, leaving the cherries to Oliver, I changed my mind after berry number three or four. Not sure if they spray them with Strawberry No.5, but their actual taste rarely cashes the check the promising scent writes out. But those plump cherries for sure did! I felt transported back to the orchard of my grandparents, where the best cherries grew on a tree right next to their doorstep. They were just as incredible sweet and juicy and played in a hole different league of fruits.
That’s when I decided to rediscover cherries and in turn skip the one or the other basket of strawberries. Since then I a) nibbled on them while working, b) had them with a bit of sugar and whipped cream (just like my strawberries), c) made jam & chutney and finally d) discovered a Pavlova combo with caramelized cherries I seriously fell in love with – and I hope you will, too!
Don’t get me wrong, these cherries taste super on their own, but if you are on a serious cherry spree and keep looking for creative ways to cook or bake with them, roasting and caramelizing them in the oven is the way to go – and marinating them beforehand in a little Amaretto liqueur won’t hurt either…
Start with the meringues: I use my KitchenAid for this, but a handheld mixer works fine, too. Place the egg whites in the bowl, add the pinch of salt and whisk until it starts to form peaks. Now slowly add the sugar, then the lemon juice and beat until the egg whites become really stiff and glossy (this may take a few minutes). Lastly add the cinnamon powder and beat on low level just until well incorporated. (the meringues on my pictures have a hint of pink color, because I added some cherry juice – anyway, since it didn’t do anything remarkable – neither taste-wise nor visually – I won’t go overboard in recommending it)
Preheat the oven to 100°C (~210°F) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Fill the egg whites in a piping bag with larger star or rosette shaped nozzle and pipe small circles with a rim onto the paper (about 9 cm/3,5 in in diameter). I piped four of these little baskets and used the remaining egg whites for some small meringue bites.
Back in the oven (middle level) for 2 hours, then turn it off and let the meringues dry completely until the oven has turned cold again. They can now be removed easily from the parchment paper and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. They keep well in an airtight container and can be prepared days in advance.(If you prefer the inside of the meringue rather chewy, you have to reduce the baking time.)
On to the cherries: Preheat the oven to 200°C (~390°F). Wash, pad dry and pit cherries, then cut in half and add to a bowl, together with the amaretto and the brown sugar. Mix well, let marinate for a couple of minutes, then spread onto a baking sheet and place in the oven (top level) and turn on the grill. Roast the cherries until soft and well caramelized for 5 to 10 minutes (turn them once), then remove from the oven. They can be served hot, warm or even cold (I prefer them still slightly warm).
Lastly the whipped cream: Add heavy cream and Crème fraîche (adds a nice tanginess) to a bowl and whisk until soft peaks form.
Finally assemble everything on a plate: Put a little bit of whipped cream in the center of the plate before placing the meringue basket – this ensures it won’t slip right off the plate when serving it (been there…). Now generously fill the basket with whipped cream and top it off with the roasted cherries and some chopped pistachios. Mhhhhhhhh, enjoy!
Spiced Pavlova with caramelized cherries & pistachios
Recipe source: own creation
Active time: ~45 minutes, baking time: ~3 hour
Ingredients (for 4):
2 egg whites (L)
1 pinch of fine sea salt
125g caster sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp Ceylon cinnamon powder (optional)
500g sweet cherries
2 tbsp Amaretto liqueur
1-2 tbsp Muscovado sugar (light or dark)
200g heavy cream
100g Crème fraîche (or Schmand/Smetana)
1-2 tbsp chopped pistachios