Strawberry & Hazelnut Toffee Pavlova

I watched Delia make a strawberry and vanilla pavlova on the Waitrose ad on tv recently.  The last time I had made a meringue myself had been in home economics class and I remembered it as a load of fussing and beating and waiting and not really being worth the effort.  Delia however made it look simple and simple it is.  I’ve taken Delia’s recipe and modified it so that it’s now a completely different entity but still simple.  Lots of English recipes seem to call for golden caster sugar and I have yet to come across it in an Irish supermarket so I substituted light golden brown sugar which resulted in the lovely toffee colour that complements the sticky toffee crunch of the meringue.

You will need:
For the meringue :
 3 large egg whites, 175g light golden brown sugar
For the filling: punnet strawberries, 250ml carton fresh cream, 250g tub natural fromage frais (I used petits filous),
a handful of hazelnuts, 2 tbsp icing sugar.
Method:
Roast the hazelnuts in a hot oven until browned.  Wrap and rub the hazelnuts in a teatowel to remove as much of the skin as possible.  Place the hazelnuts in a small plastic bag e.g. sandwich bag and bash with a rolling pin to crush them.
Turn the oven to 150C, gas mark 2 for the meringue (you do not want the oven to be too hot.)
Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
Whisk the egg whites with an electric mixer until beginning to stiffen up.  Add in the brown sugar about a tbsp at a time.
Use a metal spoon to form a circular base of meringue about 20cm in diameter on the baking sheet.  Then spoon large round blobs of the mix around the edge of the meringue to form the meringue shell wall.  Use the tip of a skewer to make a swirl in each round blob and lift it up slightly.  (this makes the blobs into nicely shaped peaks).
Put the meringue in the oven and immediately turn down the heat to 140C, gas mark 1 and leave for 1 hour.  Then turn off the oven and leave the pavlova inside until cold.
Prepare and fill the meringue before serving (not more than an hour ahead as you want your meringue to stay nice and crunchy).   Peel the parchment paper off the meringue base. 
Blitz a small handful of the strawberries in a food processor with 1 tbsp icing sugar to make a puree.
Whisk the cream with an electric mixer until stiffening and then stir in the fromage frais and 1 tbsp of icing sugar.
Chop the remaining strawberries.  Spoon a layer of the cream mix into the meringue base and top with half the strawberries.  Spoon the remaining cream on top, then decorate with the strawberries, crushed hazelnut and puree.

Enjoy.  Till next time, Sheila

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