Don’t you just hate it when a recipe’s directions don’t tell you everything?
This is a fantastic frozen dessert called a vacherin from the French word “vache” meaning cow. I figure it means a dairy dessert. It’s like a layered pavlova sandwiched with cream. I had changed the original recipe so the execution wasn’t the prettiest dessert I have ever made. It is based on an Epicurious recipe for a vacherin using rhubarb and strawberries, and since I can’t run out to the grocery store 15,000 miles away to get them, I had to make do with mango.
Most disconcerting of all, I had to figure out what the recipe meant when the meringue disks did not dry out like a pavlova meringue when it said “firm, dry, and pale golden.” After two hours baking at 250˚F, the meringue disks were, in Nigella’s description, still very “squidgy.” What I discovered was that leaving the soft disks with the oven heat off as they cooled did indeed make the meringues firm, brittle, and eventually, very dry and light.
After layering the disks with the mango cream and freezing the whole torte for 6 hours, I ended up with a dessert that wasn’t very beautiful to look at but it was interesting: crunchy, sweet, creamy, and with a smooth mango taste throughout.
Prep time: 30 minutes
Baking time: 2 hours
Resting time: 8 -12 hours
6 egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup superfine sugar (aka caster sugar)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups fresh mango, cut into cubes (size doesn’t matter as it will be pureed)
2 tablespoons orange juice
2/3 cup superfine sugar, divided
1/4 cup water + 2 tablespoons cornstarch
5 large egg yolks
1 cup whipping cream chilled
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Heat oven to 250˚ F/120˚C. Trace two 7-inch circles on a sheet of parchment paper and one 8 inch circle on another sheet of parchment. Place parchment tracing sides down in two baking trays.
Cake Baker’s Note: Make sure the bowl and beaters are grease free. Wipe the beaters and bowl with a damp cloth or paper towel dipped in white vinegar.
Make the meringues. In a large mixing bowl beat egg whites until frothy. Add cream of tartar and salt. Beat until soft peaks form. Continue beating until smooth and glossy. Add sugar 1 tablespoon at a time while beating until whites turn stiff and glossy. Spoon meringue into piping bag fitted with a large plain tip. Fill each circle with meringue piped in spirals to fill three circles.
Cake Baker’s Note: Fill a piping bag with a small amount say, one-half to three-quarter cup of meringue and pipe a little bit at a time, squeezing from the top of the piping bag. After making the circle, pipe over it again to get a height of about 1 inch (about 2 cups of meringue per circle). Don’t worry if there are holes; just try to overlap each spiral and use a firm steady pressure. Use a spatula to smooth the top—and fill in those holes.
Bake meringues until firm dry and pale golden about 2 hours. Leave in the oven to cool at least 4 hours or overnight.
Cake Baker’s Note: After two hours baking in the oven, the outside will be a bit “squidgy” or soft. Do not worry. It is a meringue after all, so it will not have the crisp outer shell of a pavlova. But after four hours cooling in the oven, the meringues dried, becoming crisp and airy. Because Bangkok is so humid, I wrapped the cooled meringue disks airtight and stored them overnight in a cake tin with a tight fitting lid.
Make mango cream. In a medium saucepan combine 3 cups mango, 1/3 cup sugar, water and cornstarch mixture, and orange juice. Bring to a boil stirring until sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until mango is tender about 10-15 minutes. Purée in a food processor. Chill until cold about 1 hour.
Whisk yolks and 1/3 cup sugar in a metal bowl set over a pot of simmering water. The bottom of the bowl mustn’t touch the water or the eggs will scramble. Whisk until mixture thickens and reaches a temperature of 140˚F on an instant read thermometer about 3-7 minutes. Chill mixture until cool about 15 minutes. Gently fold mango mixture into yolk mixture.
To a chilled mixing bowl add cream and vanilla. Whip until stiff peaks form. Fold cream into mango mixture.
Place a cooled meringue disk in the bottom of a 7-inch spring form pan. Spoon mango cream on top leaving a 2 inch border. Cover cream with the second meringue disk and cover it with mango cream. Cover that layer with the third disk. Cover the disk with the remaining mango cream, pouring any extra over the whole thing. It will look ugly but will taste heavenly. Freeze 6 hours or overnight.
When ready to eat, unmold the frozen torte, slice and eat. It has the creaminess of ice cream and the crunch of a Crunchie honeycomb candy bar.