Like strawberry shortcake but more elegant, this layered dessert needs to rest for a few hours before slicing to soften the crunchy meringue. It keeps for about a day so you can serve half for dinner and enjoy the other half for a decadent breakfast the next morning.
- 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
- Pinch salt
- ½ cup (100 g) sugar
- ¼ teaspoon almond extract
- 6 tablespoons (45 g) finely ground toasted almonds (see Note)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 3 tablespoons sifted all-purpose flour
- ¾ pound (350 g) whole-milk ricotta
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon brandy
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup (80 ml) heavy cream, whipped to firm peaks
- ¾ pound (350 g) strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon brandy
- 1 tablespoon finely ground raw (unroasted) pistachios, for garnish
- Mint sprig and sliced strawberry, optional garnish
Make the meringue: Preheat two ovens to 350°F (180°C) or position two racks in the upper third and bottom third of one oven. Line two heavy rimmed baking sheets with parchment and trace three 7-1/2-inch (19-cm) circles on the paper in pencil, two circles on one sheet and one on the other. Flip the parchment over so the macaroon batter will not touch the pencil marks.
In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, whip the egg whites and salt on medium-high speed until foamy. Add the sugar gradually, then the almond extract. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then raise the speed to high and whip until the sugar has completely dissolved and the meringue stands in firm peaks when the whisk is lifted.
Remove the bowl from the mixer. Gently fold in the almonds, then the butter, then the flour.
Divide the mixture evenly among the traced circles and spread into evenly thick 7-1/2-inch (19-cm) rounds. Bake until golden-brown and no longer sticky to the touch, 18 to 20 minutes. If you are using one oven, shift the position of the baking sheets halfway through to ensure even baking.
Remove the baking sheets from the oven and lift the parchment sheets onto a cooling rack. When the meringue tortes are completely cool, carefully peel away the parchment. Don’t worry if they stick a little bit.
Make the filling: In a food processor, blend the ricotta, sugar, brandy, and vanilla until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and gently fold in the whipped cream.
In a bowl, combine the strawberries, sugar, and brandy. Toss gently and let stand 5 minutes.
Place one meringue on a cake stand or platter that will fit in the refrigerator. Top with one-third of the ricotta filling, spreading it evenly to the edges. Arrange half of the berries in an even layer on top of the ricotta. Top with another and half of the remaining ricotta filling, spreading it to the edges. Top the ricotta with the remaining berries in an even layer, then place the third macaroon on top. Spread the remaining ricotta filling on top of the torte, then cover with a cake dome and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 1 day.
Just before serving, garnish the top with the ground pistachios and, if desired, with a mint sprig and sliced strawberry.
NOTE: Toast whole raw almonds in a 325°F (160°C) oven until golden inside, about 25 minutes. Let cool, then grind fine in a nut grinder or food processor.