Clouds with Custard and Fruit

Clouds with Custard and Fruit
Recipe type: Desserts, Vegetarian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 12
This is a variation of the classic Pavlova dessert. It is a simple meringue, baked into crisp little nests for custard filling and ripe berries. I developed this recipe to enter a contest held by the local hospital for heart healthy recipes. This was a winner in the dessert category. The hospital’s chef prepared a wonderful dinner for us, serving our winning entries. It was a little early for strawberry season and that was the only berry he used as cost was probably a consideration, but he enhanced the flavor of the strawberries with a little lemon juice and thinly sliced mint leaves. You might choose to do the same. I find they make an elegant presentation when each person has an individual serving, but you must assemble the dessert just prior to serving or the custard and berries will start to melt your crisp meringue shell. If fat and calories are not an issue for you, you can use whole milk for the pudding and perhaps even serve the clouds with a pouf of whipped, sweetened heavy cream with a touch of vanilla extract. It would not even be outrageous if you decided to make only 8 servings with this quantity of ingredients. When making the meringue, separate the yolks from the whites while the eggs are cold so that the yolks won't break as easily. It is helpful to use a small bowl to put each egg white into while separating so that if you accidentally break a yolk, you will only lose the single egg white. Use a very clean bowl and beaters and ensure that not a bit of yolk has gotten into the egg whites. Any fat in the whites will stop them from beating up into a stiff meringue.
  • 4 egg whites (room temperature for greatest volume)
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 small package Vanilla Instant Pudding (can use sugar-free)
  • 1 1/2 cups cold low-fat or skim milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 2 cups fresh berries (any combination of, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries or sliced strawberries)
  • 2 Tbsp powdered sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 225ºF.
  2. Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar with an electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks form. Add granulated sugar gradually, beating until stiff, shiny peaks form.
  3. Spread the meringue into 12 small circles or one big circle on parchment-covered baking sheets, indenting center slightly. Bake 1-1/2 hours. Turn off the oven and leave the meringues in until cool. You can leave them overnight. If you make them ahead, store in an airtight container or they will absorb moisture and get sticky.
  4. Whisk the pudding mix, milk and flavoring in a medium bowl for 2 minutes until thickened. Refrigerate. When you are ready to serve, stir the pudding to make it creamier, place the meringues on plates and fill the centers with the pudding. Top with berries and dust with powdered sugar. (If you have a tea strainer or mesh ball, that is an easy way to sprinkle the sugar without much mess.)