I first tasted this meringue and berry, cloud-like confection when I was living with my friend Amy during college. We’ve been friends since 7th grade and back then my very favorite thing to eat at her house was Tomo’s Salad. It’s worthy of an entirely separate blog post, so I won’t go into details now.
I wouldn’t know about this dessert for years to come. It is her family’s recipe that I was lucky enough to taste at a celebratory dinner (I don’t remember what we were celebrating, I just remember this dessert) and immediately fall in love with. I think I ate three slices in one sitting. Amy’s family called it Kiss Torte. Perfectly suited for something so sweet and light and creamy and fresh.
When I asked Amy the other day about how the name came to be, she confirmed that Kiss Torte is the dessert’s proper name, but that when she and her brother and sister were little, Kiss Torte sounded a lot like Kiss a Stork, which evolved into Smooch a Sea Gull. And that name stuck. So, Kiss Torte is the outsider term and Smooch a Sea Gull is the real deal. I love stuff like that. Nicknames. Mish-mashed, secret family terms. Whatever you want to call them.
It’s the fresh berries in Smooch a Sea Gull that I’ve roasted and morphed into Strawberry Smooch. Each version is divine, so I’ll share them both. Strawberry Smooch is a bit more involved, because it requires roasting fresh strawberries until they’re soft and oozy. I made this version because I had a few pints of fresh strawberries that weren’t going to last long. I’d never roasted a berry in my entire life and I was curious as to how they’d taste. Turns out, they taste really good.
But, if you’re in the mood for fresh berries, then by all means Smooch a Sea Gull and call it a day. Berries – strawberries, blueberries, raspberries – are in season now. This dessert is a marvelous way to celebrate them in all their glory. (I can already taste a patriotic 4th of July version with blueberries, raspberries and the pillowy, white cream and meringue. Ohhh, Say Can You See!)
Either way, you’re building the berries a temple so they can bask in their colorful juiciness. The end result is a big, sweet smooch. And you’re worthy of it. Never forget that.
Strawberry Smooch (and Smooch a Sea Gull)
For the meringue:
- 4 large egg whites with no traces of yolk, at room temperature
- Pinch fine salt
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Heat the oven to 250°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Using a 9-inch round cake pan, trace a circle onto a piece of parchment paper with a pen or marker. Flip the paper over and place it on a baking sheet (the traced circle should be visible); set aside.
Place the egg whites and salt in the very clean, dry bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a clean, dry whisk attachment. Whisk on medium speed until the whites begin to lighten in color and only small bubbles remain, about 2 minutes. Increase the speed to high and very slowly add the sugar in a thin, continuous stream. Whisk until firm, shiny peaks form, resembling marshmallow crème (this is the meringue!), about 3 minutes.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and sift the cornstarch through a fine-mesh strainer into the meringue. Drizzle with the vinegar and vanilla and fold them into the meringue with a rubber spatula until no streaks of vanilla remain, being careful not to deflate the whites.
Using the rubber spatula, pile the meringue into the center of the circle drawn on the parchment paper and smooth it to the edges of the circle to form a rough, even disk about 1 inch tall. Bake until the meringue is firm to the touch but slightly soft in the middle, about 60 minutes. Remove from the oven, place the baking sheet on a wire rack, and let cool completely. Run a thin metal spatula under the meringue to loosen. Carefully slide it onto a serving platter; set aside.
For the roasted strawberries (Strawberry Smooch version):
- 1 pint of fresh strawberries, hulled
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
- drizzle of port wine or red wine
- a few drops balsamic vinegar
Preheat the oven to 350 with a rack in the middle of the oven.
Be sure to use a rimmed baking sheet or large baking dish for this recipe— the berries get juicy! If you are using a baking sheet, line it with parchment paper.
Cut each strawberry in half. If your strawberries are on the large side, cut them into quarters or sixths. Add the berries to a mixing bowl. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, olive oil, and salt. Pour this over the strawberries and very gently toss to coat the berries. Arrange the strawberries in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.
Roast for about 40 minutes, just long enough for the berry juices to thicken, but not long enough for the juices to burn. Watch the edges of the pan in particular.
While still warm, scrape the berries and juices from the pan into a small bowl. Stir in the port and balsamic vinegar.
For the whipped cream:
- 1 cup cold heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Place the cream, sugar, and vanilla in a clean bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until soft peaks form, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.
Pile the freshly whipped cream on top of the meringue. Top with roasted strawberries for a Strawberry Smooch, or fresh berries (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries) for Smooch a Sea Gull. Serve immediately.