Probably the best thing you can do for your mother on Mother’s Day is to give her a day of rest. If you have neglected (through laziness or because you forgot) to reserve a table for dim sum or a hotel brunch, it’s probably too late – all the best options will be fully booked by now. Ditto if you want to take her out for dinner. So, as a break, let your mother spend the day how she wants while you whip up this easy dessert.
Fresh berry verrines with honey-vanilla mascarpone and vanilla meringues
Make the meringues first, so they have time to bake and dry out. The rest of the dessert takes only a few minutes of work. I like to macerate about half of the berries with sugar, which softens them and creates a light sauce, and leave the rest “fresh”.
For the meringues:
80 grams egg whites, at room temperature
½ tsp fine sea salt
180 grams granulated sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
A 2.5cm-long piece of vanilla bean
For the berries and honey-vanilla mascarpone:
1 punnet raspberries
1 punnet blueberries
1 punnet blackberries or mulberries
1 small basket of strawberries
8 cape gooseberries (also called physalis)
About 10ml fresh lemon juice
250 grams mascarpone
25 grams honey
A 6cm-long piece of vanilla bean
Unsweetened cocoa powder
Fresh mint leaves
Preheat the oven to 90 degrees Celsius. To make the meringues, put the egg whites in a heatproof bowl, add the salt, sugar and cornstarch and whisk immediately. Pour water in a saucepan to a depth of about 3cm and heat until simmering. Turn the heat to very low and place the bowl holding the egg white mixture over the pan. Whisk constantly until the mixture is very warm to the touch (about 45 degrees).
Immediately remove the bowl from the heat and wipe the bottom of it, to remove condensation. Split the vanilla bean segment in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with the tip of a knife. (Dry the scraped-out pod, then put it in an air-tight canister of sugar, to make vanilla sugar.)
Put the vanilla seeds into the bowl, then use an electric mixer on medium speed to whip the ingredients until frothy. Turn the mixer speed to high and continue to whip until the meringue forms medium peaks.
Transfer the meringue to a piping bag fitted with a 6mm plain piping tip. Line a tray (you will probably need two) with baking paper and pipe out the meringue into 1.5cm circles, leaving about 1cm between each one. Slide the tray into the oven and bake for 45 minutes. Turn the tray(s) around in the oven and continue to bake for another 45 minutes, or until the meringues are light, crisp and dry; they should lift easily from the baking paper. Turn the oven to as low as it will go and leave the meringues inside for several hours, or until it’s time to serve dessert.
Put half the raspberries, blueberries, blackberries (or mulberries) and strawberries (cores removed, then sliced) into a bowl and weigh them together. Calculate 10 per cent of that weight, and add that much granulated sugar, the 10ml of lemon juice and mix well. Leave in the fridge for at least an hour, stirring occasionally. Taste the mixture, it should be sweet-tart; if needed, mix in more lemon juice.
Just before it is time to serve dessert, make the honey-vanilla mascarpone cream. Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Put the seeds in a bowl with the mascarpone cheese and the honey. Use a spoon to mix thoroughly.
Divide the macerated berries (and the juices) into four individual-serving glass bowls. Spoon the mascarpone mixture on top, dividing it between the four bowls. Top with some of the fresh fruit – the raspberries, blueberries and blackberries or mulberries whole; the cape gooseberries cut in half; the strawberries halved or sliced, depending on size. You might not need all the fresh fruit.
Use a fine sieve to dust cocoa powder very lightly over the meringues. Put one meringue on top of each serving and garnish with a sprig of mint. Serve immediately, with a plate of meringues on the side.
Any leftover meringues should be put in an airtight box; if you have any silica packets (from snacks), put them in the box to help keep the meringues dry.