Summer Berry Pavlova

We had friends round to see the new flat on Saturday, so what better excuse to get the creative, baking and food juices flowing than through hospitality.

It wasn't a huge thing, and we mainly just sat in the lounge talking, laughing and drinking but I wanted to share the dessert I made, which ended up being perfect for the hot and sunny day that Saturday turned out to be (you were so wrong Mr Weatherman).

I have been making meringues for longer than I can even remember. I don't know how it started, but mainly just because I found a love for homemade meringue and wanted it all the time. My parents would happily let me sit in the kitchen whisking away, and the results got better and better as I went on.

I used a different recipe this time mixing half caster sugar and half icing sugar with the beaten, fluffy egg whites, which was a really nice change and made the meringue noticeably lighter. I baked the meringue for an hour on 120C (fan oven) and then turned the temperature off and let it sit in the oven for another couple of hours whilst we ate lunch and digested our food.

Although the strawberries, raspberries and cherries were ripe and sweet the season is still not in full swing - buying three punnets of fruit set me back a good £6 at the supermarket, *but* give it a month or so and all you'll see in the shops is mounds of summer berries - I can't wait.

This was probably the best meringue I've ever done, crispy on the outside, and only some slight breakage as I manoeuvred it off the baking parchment and onto a plate, and so light and fluffy on the inside, I was actually very impressed with myself. I used Elmlea instead of double cream because to me it tastes the same, with a hint of vanilla. Whilst the cream was being whisked in my KitchenAid (getting so much use out of it, so pleased), I prepared the fruit. I cannot stand seeing the green leafy tops being left on strawberries and stones left in cherries - it's so lazy and doesn't make a good food experience in the end. So people, please prepare your fruit :)

Recipe as follows:

Pre-heat oven at 120C fan
Separate 4 medium egg yolks and whites and start whisking the whites until firm and forming 'soft peaks' - basically really bubbly and double in volume
Weigh out 100g of caster sugar and 100g of icing sugar, sieve well and spoon in together a tablespoon at a time
Whisk until thick, silky and well-formed
Pour the meringue on to a baking tray covered with baking parchment/greaseproof paper, spread it out a little and form a well in the middle using a spoon

Pop in the oven and after an hour, turn off the oven and let it sit for a few hours
Transfer the meringue onto a plate or serving dish

Whip 300ml (or more) of double cream or Elmlea and add a teaspoon of vanilla (or to taste)
Spoon the whipped cream on top of the meringue being careful not to break the meringue

Prepare your fruit and place/dump/chuck on top

And there you have it, a Summer Berry Pavlova, probably the easiest dessert in the history of baking!