Welcome Spring, and failing that, welcome Easter. Sadly, we won’t be welcoming family or friends again the year. But don’t give up. Drop off desserts, make each other care packages, decorate whatever outdoor spaces you have, and remember—this will not last forever. It’s not much longer now.
Every Easter we are drowned in chocolates: eggs and their nests, bunnies, chickadees, or more modern creations like some of the beautiful chocolate creations I ordered for my family at the Grand Order of Divine Sweets. I went for the Star Wars theme, but there are many other gorgeous creations, including Wonder Woman and Doctor Who-themed merch, and multicoloured, hand-painted eggs. Chocolate not only makes beautiful gifts, it counts as self care, too.
Every spring I make a lemon cake accompanied by coloured white chocolate eggs, either more lemon or coconut, just for variety’s sake. But this year I went back to my favourite combination for inspiration: pistachio and strawberry. If strawberries don’t represent spring, then what does?
Some of the strawberries we see at this time of year are maybe not as ripe or intensely flavoured as one might hope. Easily fixed by roasting them. I used BraveTart’s recipe, following her recommendation to use toasted sugar, which takes the sweetness down a peg or two. I was keen to use rosewater or orange blossom water as well as spent vanilla pods on my berries, but this might have been pushing the palates of my loved ones, so I’ll save that for a dinner party.
Roasting the strawberries not only concentrates the flavours, it removes the fresh sharpness that is normally such a great balance to the sweetness of a ripe berry. Pistachio is such a gentle flavour, it didn’t want any tartness to overwhelm it.
For the pistachio paste: BraveTart has a beautiful recipe for that as well, and I urge you all to make it and play with it. Only good things will come from such endeavours. However, Soma has a beautiful pistachio paste that you can just pick up when you are buying your Easter bunnies. I always keep a couple of jars on hand, because you never know when you need to make something fabulous at a moment’s notice. I was also lucky enough to come across some Watkins pistachio extract, which is not easily found. You could use almond, but use half the amount. Or use pistachio liqueur, if you can find it. I used vanilla as well. I find it supports the flavour perfectly.
I did this as a roll, but you could easily do it as a stack, or in mini-mason jars as little individual desserts. There are a few steps, and it’s best made the same day, but you can make the pistachio cream, the roasted strawberries, and the candied nuts a day ahead. The candied pistachios could also benefit from rosewater or orange blossom water, but again, it’s not for everyone. The meringue you do want to make same day, and leave time for the eggs to hit from temp, then for it to cool. But it’s not hard to throw together, and it will crack, so you can just not worry about that at all. Cover it with more cream and strawberries and absolutely no one will care.
- ½ cup pistachio paste (see link)
- 2 cups whipping cream
- 1 cup mascarpone
- ½ tsp pistachio or ( ¼ tsp. almond extract)
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup ground pistachios (available at Nuts.com, or make your own)
- 1 cup white sugar, plus 2 tbsp.
- 1½ tsp cornstarch
- ¾ cup egg whites, at room temperature
- 1 tsp vinegar
- ½ tsp pistachio extract
- 1 cup pistachios
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 7 cups fresh strawberries
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 hull vanilla bean
- juice from ½ lemon
- 1 pinch salt
- Set the oven rack to the middle position and set the oven to 425°F (220°C).
- Line a 12 x 17 inch (30 x 43 cm) sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.
- In a small bowl, combine the ground pistachios with 2 tbsp of sugar and the cornstarch.
- Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Begin mixing on medium speed until egg whites are foamy. Increase the speed to medium high and beat until soft peaks.
- Add remaining 1 cup of sugar in a slow stream, then stop the machine and scrape down the edges.
- Continue beating until the egg whites form stiff, shiny peaks.
- Add in the vinegar, pistachio or almond extract.
- Remove the bowl from the mixer and gently fold in the ground pistachio mixture, one third at a time.
- Spread the meringue evenly in the pan, levelling the top gently.
- Place in the oven. Immediately reduce the heat to 275°F (140°C).
- Bake until meringue is lightly set and light golden brown, about 40 minutes. Leave on a wire rack until completely cool.
- Turn oven back to 375°F (190°C).
- Wash strawberries and slice off the tops. Slice biggest ones in half. Toss with lemon juice, sugar and vanilla pod.
- Roasted, stirring one or twice, until just softened and swimming in juice, about 30 minutes. Let cool.
- Rinse out the bowl of the stand mixer. Add 1/2 cup of cream to the pistachio paste, and blend together with the paddle attachment. Blend until smooth.
- Scrape off the paddle attachment and replace it with the whisk attachment. Add in mascarpone, the extracts and the rest of the cream. Beat together until stiff.
- Spread the cream evenly over the meringue, leaving a little border for spillover.
- Strain strawberries and rough chop (or squish with freshly washed hands) and spread over cream.
- If you have a helper to assist with the roll, do so. It will crack. You don't care, because you are not Martha Stewart and you are covering it with cream anyway. Do your worst.
- Slather more pistachio cream over the outside, and pop it in the fridge or freezer while you candy the whole pistachios.
- Warm pistachios over low heat with 2 tbsp sugar stirring all the time. Let cool. Decorate roll with more strawberries and pistachios.
- Serve within a couple of hours. Prepare yourself for adoration and pledges of undying loyalty. Happy Easter!