Food

Rachel Roddy’s recipe for meringata, AKA meringue with cream, fruit and toasted almonds Dessert

We used to pass the via Acaia branch of the San Crispino Gelateria when we drove back from the airport. So I associate it with delays, and with ice-cream to make up for lost luggage.

Cool and with no frills, there was more counter than shop, and the Gelati were protected by silver lids. Lids imply confidence – that it is so sure about what it does that it doesn’t need to pile it up and show it off. San Crispino divides its Gelati into three groups: creams, which are custard-based; pure fruit sorbetti; and Gelati with meringues, which have brittle bits. Many people seem to agree that, in the late 1980s, with its techniques, rigor and attention to ingredients, San Crispino changed gelato in Rome. Also that it remains excellent.

Once, in late August 2011, not long before my due date, I decided against our local, also excellent, gelateria and walked to via Acaia. It’s a few kilometers away, a good part of which is beside a dual carriageway, but the only thing I wanted to eat was their pear and zabaione gelato. I ate three scoops immediately, then bought a tub to take away, interested to see how the Styrofoam would cope on such a hot day. I never found out, because a neighbor saw me walking slowly back and gave me a lift. Years later, he admitted that driving me across the hot city, heavily pregnant and with a large tub of ice-cream, was one of the most stressful drives of his life.

One day, I should tell him that he is partly responsible for today’s recipe. Had he not got us home safely, I wouldn’t have sat at the table waiting for something to happen while eating pear, zabaione and meringue – a heavenly combination that I am now writing about here.

Thanks, too, to Yotam Ottolenghi, whose suggestion of warming the sugar is a meringue changer. This isn’t too much of a detour, because the oven needs to be heated to bake the meringues anyway.

I don’t know when exactly, but the via Acaia branch of San Crispino closed. We drove past one day and it looked different. Still a gelateria, but not San Crispino. We knew there were other branches, but we missed it for a bit – car nostalgia. Remember the time the shampoo exploded and leaked out of the zip and you had four scoops? Or, driving home holding Styrofoam, with a neighbor who had panic in his eyes.

Meringata with cream, fruit and toasted almonds

Prep 20 min
Cook 1 hour 40 minutes
Serves 6-8

360g caster sugar
6 egg whites
300 ml
whipping or thick cream
4 pear halves in syrup
drained and sliced
100g flaked almondstoasted

Heat the oven to 150C (130C fan)/300F/gas 2. Warm the sugar slightly by spreading it on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper, then bake for about eight minutes, until the sugar is warm and the edges just – but only just – starting to melt. Remove and turn down the oven to 110C (90C fan)/225F/gas ¼.

Using a stand mixer or an electric whisk, beat the egg whites until gently frothy, then, whisking constantly, slowly add the warm sugar. Whisk for 10 minutes, or until the meringue is thick and shiny.

If your lined tray is large enough, spread the meringue into two dinner-plate-sized circles; otherwise, use two baking trays. Bake in the low oven for 80 minutes, or until the circles are dry and set firm. Leave to cool, then carefully peel them away from the paper.

To assemble, put one meringue circle on a large plate, spread with two-thirds of the cream and make a fan of sliced ​​pear on that. Sprinkle over half the almonds and top with the second meringue circle. Now, using a palette knife, spread the sides (but not the top) with the remaining cream and press the remaining almonds into it.

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