Summertime is all about the berries

From Pavlova to a no-bake pie, fresh berries turn any dessert into something special

  • Jul. 30, 2017 4:30 a.m.

The other day I met a couple of guys who had a bucket of beautiful huckleberries they had picked. Fond memories of picking berries with my dad flowed through me and I could hardly wait to go picking again.

Since it’s berry season, and has been so hot, I decided to offer some dessert recipes that require no baking and a Pavlova that is a favourite for gluten-free diets. The first is a berry pie unlike any four-ingredient pie you’ve likely tried but it’s so delicious and also super easy to make. My favourite cherry pie follows, then a beautiful dessert made up of layers of cake, fruits, custard and whipping cream followed by a dessert named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. It is a meringue dessert with a crisp crust and soft, light inside. And it’s delicious.

Merry Berry White Chocolate Pie

6 oz. (175 g) white chocolate, chopped

1 ¼ cups (300 mL) 35% whipping cream, divided

1 prepared 9-inch (23 cm) chocolate or vanilla crumb pie crust

1 ½ cups (375 mL) frozen mixed berries, thawed

In a saucepan, heat chocolate and 1/4 cup (50 mL) of the cream over low heat, stirring often, just until chocolate is melted.

Pour 2 tbsp. (30 mL) of the melted chocolate mixture into pie crust; using a pastry brush or spatula, gently spread chocolate evenly inside crust. Refrigerate until set. Let remaining chocolate mixture cool slightly but not until firm. Set 1 tbsp. (15 mL) of the chocolate mixture aside.

In a blender or food processor, purée remaining chocolate mixture and thawed berries with any accumulated juices until smooth.

In a chilled bowl, whip remaining cream just to stiff peaks; fold in berry mixture. Spoon berry mixture into pie crust and smooth top. Warm reserved chocolate mixture gently if necessary to make fluid; drizzle over top of pie. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, until set or for up to 1 day.

Best Cherry Pie

1 recipe pastry for a 9-inch double crust pie

3 cups pitted sour cherries (save all juice)

1 cup white sugar

1/3 cup all-purpose flour (I use cornstarch)

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1/4 teaspoon red food colouring (optional)

1 egg yolk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 C). Make pastry and refrigerate.

Drain cherries, reserving 1 cup liquid. In a saucepan combine sugar, flour and salt. Stir in cherry liquid and bring to a boil, stirring often. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Mixture will thicken.

When mixture is thickened, add butter, almond extract, food colouring and cherries. Cover and refrigerate.

On lightly covered surface, roll out half of the pastry into an 11-inch circle. Put into 9-inch pie dish. Roll other half of pastry into another 11-inch circle. With a knife or pastry wheel, cut eight 1/2-inch strips. Pour cooled cherry filling into pie dish. Place pastry strips horizontally, then vertically, across the top of the pie and lightly brush with egg yolk. Bake 30 to 35 minutes,until crust is golden brown; and cool before serving.

Three-Berry Trifle

1 pint raspberries

1 pint blueberries

1 pint strawberries, sliced

1 angel food cake (I buy it), torn in bite-size pieces

2 cups whipping cream, whipped with 2 tbsp. sugar

1 cup whipped cream, whipped for topping

1 – 6-serving box of vanilla instant pudding

3 cups milk

Clean berries; set aside. Whip cream until stiff peaks form. Make pudding according to pkg. directions.

Have 6 parfait glasses ready or a large trifle bowl (any clear glass bowl will work).

Divide berries, whipped cream, pudding, and cake into thirds for large bowl and sixths for glasses (I just eyeball it.) Layer 1/3 cake in the bottom, followed by 1/3 pudding, 1/3 berries, and 1/3 whipped cream; repeat three times and end with second amount of cream.

For parfaits, layer only twice ending with second amount of whipped cream. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. Delicious and beautiful.

Mixed Berry Pavlova

4 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature

Pinch kosher salt

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup heavy cream, whipped and sweetened to taste with 1/2 tsp. vanilla and 1 tbsp. sugar

1/2 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced

1/2 pint fresh blueberries

1/2 pint fresh raspberries

1 cup seedless raspberry jam

2-3 tbsp. water

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees F.

Place a sheet of parchment paper on a sheet pan. Draw a 9-inch circle on the paper, using a 9-inch plate as a guide, then turn the paper over so the circle is on the reverse side.

Place the egg whites and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat at high speed until firm. With the mixer still on high, slowly add the sugar and beat until it makes firm, shiny peaks, about 2 minutes.

Sift the cornstarch onto the beaten egg whites, add the vinegar and vanilla, and fold in lightly with a rubber spatula. Pile the meringue into the middle of the circle on the parchment paper and smooth it within the circle, making a rough disk. Bake for 1-1/2 hours. Turn off the oven, keep the door closed, and allow the meringue to cool completely in the oven, about 1 hour.

While it’s cooling, empty jar of seedless jam and 2-3 tbsp. water into small saucepan; heat on low until melted; set aside to cool.

Remove pavlova, which will be crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. Place the meringue disk onto a plate and spread the top completely with sweetened whipped cream. Combine the strawberries, blueberries and raspberries in a bowl and toss with raspberry jam, Spoon the berries carefully into the middle of the Pavlova, leaving a border of cream and meringue. Serve immediately in large scoops with extra raspberry sauce.

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