A recipe from The Bitten Word
Sometimes there's that moment when you're in a restaurant and you bite into something, and you immediately think, "I have got to learn to make this at home."
We had that experience in Puerto Rico, at small restaurant in Old San Juan.
Bittens, here's the story of the Purple Cloud.
While we were visiting Puerto Rico (and eating everything in sight), we had different schedules for the first few days. Zach was off with a photographer, reporting a story for his magazine.
Clay, meanwhile, had appointed himself guardian of the beach. On the first night, Clay wandered into Old San Juan for dinner, with no real destination in sight. He pulled up a few "best of" lists on Yelp and ended up at a pseudo-vegetarian restaurant called Verde Mesa.
The restaurant is quaintly quirky, like something furnished from your wacky French grandma's attic (or, you know, basically Anthropologie). But the food was great -- mostly vegetarian, some fish, all very fresh. Clay's meal was lovely.
But on the way out, Clay noticed a few diners enjoying an incredible-looking dessert. It was a big, frothy whip of purple, a creamy, pinkish peak piled high in a dish. And it looked amazing. Clay immediately vowed to return to Verde Mesa with Zach.
Two nights later, we were back at Verde Mesa. And there it was on the dessert menu, "the Purple Cloud." We ate it. We loved it. We could have ordered another. (We refrained.)
We knew we had to try making it ourselves.
So what exactly is a Purple Cloud?
As the waiter at Verde Mesa explained to us, it's a simple combination of whipped cream, a berry compote and crushed meringues.
Here's what you do:
Make a berry compote out of whatever berries your choose. We think this would be amazing with blueberries, blackberries and/or strawberries, but other combinations would well, too. We used blueberries in ours, as the restaurant had. (In a pinch, you could substitute a high-quality store-bought jam.)
Make (or buy) some meringues. For our inaugural Purple Cloud run, we were having guests over for dinner, so we opted to make meringues. Yes, it's sad to make beautiful meringues and then crush them into pieces. But then again, destroying them is oddly enjoyable.
Whip some cream. We suppose you could buy whipped cream, but for this instance, we suggest whipping your own (especially because store-bought whipped cream will be sweetened, and this is already sweet enough with the compote and the meringues).
Combine these three elements for pure deliciousness. That's it!
We made these when Zach's parents and our friends Janet and Grant were visiting a few weeks ago. They're actually a great dessert to make for guests, because all the cooking is done in advance. When it comes time to actually assemble the desserts, all you've got to do is fold the compote and the crumbled meringues into the cream. (We did find that it worked best to fold everything together and then chill the purple cloud for 10 minutes or so, to help it keep its shape when we served it.)
This Purple Cloud is a joy! It's light and fun, but it's also really darn delicious. The sweet compote and the meringues are tempered by the cool whipped cream. And the texture is wonderful -- the whole thing is light and airy and ethereal, but with these marvelous chewy-crunchy bits of meringue. It's a great, cool summer dessert.
It's impossible to eat this Purple Cloud without a smile on your face.
Try it yourself and you'll be dreaming of purple clouds.
Links You Might Like:
- Zach's story on Puerto Rico, with a photo gallery
- Verde Mesa on Trip Advisor
- More suggestions for Puerto Rico
A Recipe from The Bitten Word
Inspired by Verde Mesa in San Juan, PR
Note: This recipe could also be made using mostly store-bought, prepared ingredients. We haven't made it with all prepared ingredients but we recognize it's possible.
Make a berry compote. Choose your fruit or a combination of fruits. We went for plain blueberry, but blackberry, strawberry or a combination of these fruits would work. Combine 2 cups fruit with 1/4 cup sugar in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the compote is thickened, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely in the refrigerator.
Make meringues. Any plain meringues will work for this dish. You could also experiment with flavored meringues. Choose your favorite meringue recipe. We used this recipe from Epicurious with great success. Allow the meringues to cool completely. When ready to use, break the meringues into small 1/2-inch pieces. Use 2 cups of crumbled meringues for this recipe, from about 5-6 medium-size meringue cookies. (If not using immediately, store crushed pieces in an airtight container.)
Whip some cream. Place 1 pint cold whipping cream in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whip until the cream forms soft peaks.
When it's time to serve the purple clouds, gently fold the compote into the whipped cream. Add the crushed meringues. Chill for at least 10 minutes. Serve cold, piled high in a 6 dishes or small bowls.