Saturday, June 15, 2013

Currently... the hum of the neighbor mowing the lawn children painting father's day cards

drinking...Harney & Sons Paris tea (thanks to Missy!)

reading...Deconstructing Penguins

deciding...what we need for the two weeks between packing up in VA and unpacking in GA

planning...our Father's Day celebration for tomorrow

thinking...about our wonderful trip to Rochester last weekend, and therefore... little sister

wishing...I could take the Virginia climate with me to Georgia

enjoying...perfectly blue skies

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

A dessert not to be missed

In the summertime, there are three kinds of desserts I like: 

Ice cream. Homemade is best. Almost any will do.

Comfort desserts. Mom's Chocolate Sheet Cake. Banana Pudding. My great-grandmother's peach cobbler, smothered in BlueBell Homemade Vanilla. (I'm a native Texan, after all.) 

And the opposite. Something fresh and cool. Something decadent but light. Nothing very heavy or too rich.

And as the summertime always seems to fill with wedding and baby showers or ladies lunches to celebrate birthdays, this flavorful, fruit-filled, and airy recipe is the perfect one to serve.

I found the original recipe in a 2005 Cooking Light magazine...but I've tweaked it a little, choosing real whipped cream over store-bought, reducing the liqueur amount (personal taste preference), and increasing the amount of fruit and shaved chocolate. (I found I would have preferred a little more chocolate shavings than the recipe called for.)

My words of advice would be to serve it to a crowd (unless you want to be tempted to eat half of the torte) and to allow plenty of time to make the meringues.

Mixed Berries Meringue Torte

For Meringue:

2 tsp clear vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/8 tsp salt
6 large egg whites
3/4 cup superfine sugar

Filling and topping:

1 quart fresh whipping cream
1 Tbsp. Grand Marnier or other orange-flavored liqueur
1 1/2 tsp finely grated orange rind
3 Tbsp. grated semisweet chocolate, divided
1 cup halved strawberries, hulled neatly
3/4 cup blueberries
3/4 cup blackberries
3/4 cup raspberries
fresh mint sprigs, for garnish
orange rind strips, for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Prepare baking sheets with parchment paper, drawing three 8-inch circles on the paper. (I use my 8-inch cake pan to trace.) Turn paper over (pencil side down) and secure with masking tape. Set aside.

2. Place vanilla, cream of tartar, salt and egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat at high speed until foamy. Gradually add sugar, one tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Dived egg mixture among the 3 circles on parchment-lined baking sheets. Spread mixture over each circle, using the back of a spoon to spread evenly. 

3. Bake meringues at 200 degree for 2 hours or until dry. Turn off oven and cool meringues in closed oven for at least one hour. (I would wait for two hours.) Remove meringues from oven and carefully remove from paper.

4. Meanwhile, prepare filling. Combine whipping cream, liqueur and 1 1/2 tsp grated orange rind. 

5. To assemble, place one meringue disk on cake plate, top with 1 cup whipped cream and sprinkle generously with chocolate shavings. Repeat layers twice. Mix the berries together and carefully center them in the center of the top layer of the torte. Garnish with mint sprigs and orange rind. 

6. Serve immediately or keep chilled. 

We found this to be delicious for 2-3 days, which is how long it lasted at our house! My meringues were a little softer than I would prefer (as I was pressed for time in preparation) but they still tasted wonderful, though perhaps a little more chewy.  I also forgot to put on the orange peel strips (which were so pretty) time!

I hope you can make this soon. It is truly the perfect summer dessert.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Simply Lovely, No. 18

The gardens of Monticello are abloom with color.
Simple and complicated, showy and delicate.
This lovely peony was my favorite of the day.

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