The only time we can truly feast on berries is in the summer. As I usually find myself with an abundance of these tempting fruits, I love to incorporate them into virtually every pudding and, even then, still have enough left for jam. I haven’t yet gone as far as they did in the Middle Ages by making strawberry soup, although the recipe isn’t dissimilar to my healthy breakfast smoothie
Makes 4 individual Charlottes
4 eggs, separated
100g caster sugar
50g icing sugar, plus a little more for sifting
85g plain flour
4 gelatin leaves (refer to the brand’s guidelines as to how much you’ll need to set-300ml if using powder or agar flakes)
250g mixed berries
30g caster sugar
300ml double cream
100g mixed berries for decorating
Preheat your oven to 180˚C/350˚F/gas mark 3. To make the mixture for the lady-fingers, mix the egg yolks and sugar until pale and fluffy. Then, in a separate bowl, mix the egg whites and icing sugar until stiff peaks form. Fold the two together and add the flour, mixing carefully with a metal spoon so as to not deflate the air.
Spoon the ladyfingers mixture into a piping bag fitted with a plain, round tip and pipe thick, even lines onto baking parchment, leaving about an inch between each one. The ladyfingers should be about 21⁄2in long and just under an inch wide-I find it helpful to draw guidelines on the reverse of the baking parchment.
To make the bases, pipe the remaining mixture into four circles: starting from a central point, pipe in a spiral until you have a flat disc that’s nearly 4in in diameter. Then, sift icing sugar over the surface of the ladyfingers and bases, before baking them in the oven for about 12 minutes. Afterwards, allow them to cool on the baking tray, as they’ll be too soft to handle. (One of the joys of making your own ladyfingers is that they’re nothing like the hard, dry, shop-bought versions.)
For the summer-berry mousse, soak the gelatin leaves in a bowl of cold water for about six minutes. Place the berries in a saucepan with the sugar and heat until the juices flow, and then pass the berries through a sieve. Squeeze the water from the gelatin leaves before adding them to the hot, sieved berry purée, and mix together well until the gelatin leaves are dissolved. Whip the double cream into soft peaks and then add to it the berries-and-gelatin mixture. Mix further, before placing the mousse into a piping bag.
To assemble the Charlottes, place the round bases into the bottoms of four 4in pastry rings-if you don’t have pastry rings, you can use empty cans with the tops and bases removed-and arrange the individual ladyfinger biscuits side by side around the edges.
Pipe the mousse into the ring, and then smooth the top with the back of a spoon. Place in the fridge to set for about three hours. To serve, remove the Charlottes from their rings, tie a ribbon around them and top with fresh berries and a dusting of icing sugar.
More ways with summer berries
Summer-berry meringues with passionfruit cream
Top meringue nests with whipped cream mixed with passionfruit pulp and icing sugar. Heap summer berries over the cream, then, sprinkle with icing sugar and add a sprig of mint to serve.
Raspberry-ripple cheesecake brownies
Add 100g raspberries and 1tbspn sugar to a saucepan. Heat until the juices run, then pass through a sieve onto 200g cream cheese, 50g caster sugar and one egg yolk. Mix well, then set aside.
Melt 200g 70%-cocoa chocolate and 185g butter. Meanwhile, whisk three eggs and 200g caster sugar until fluffy. Pour the melted chocolate and butter over the eggs and sugar, mix well, then add 115g plain flour. Pour the mixture into a foil-lined 8in by 8in brownie tin.
Then, dot spoonfuls of the cream-cheese mixture onto it, before swirling a toothpick through it to create a marbled effect. Scatter with fresh raspberries before baking at 180˚C/
350˚F/gas mark 3 for about 45 minutes.
Cool before slicing.
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