A Pavlova And A Guest
It’s "Share Your Space Friday" here again!! I have never posted that much in a week and the fun part is that I only had to write an intro!!
I am loving having guest bloggers and not only because it gives me time to frolic in the sun (ugh…no not really…!) but mainly because it is like having a friend stop by and share with you a bit of their day, their personality, etc… And if personality had a name, it would be Kelly from Sass and Veracity. I knew from the first post that I’d be reading forever…I think it was her post on creme brulee and I found myself almost hugging the computer screen just staring at her stove. Meeting her last Fall was the icing on the cake….if only my mom and mother-in-law would let me be adopted by this sassy gal…sigh… She’s got verbage, she’s got class, she’s got ethics and an amazing sense of humor. Most of all, I don’t know better person to cheer anybody on in anything they venture doing.
I am thrilled to have Kelly pop by and share with you this amazingly refreshing pavlova. Read on for the recipe.
Now….doesn’t this look amazing for Spring! Happy Easter everyone!
I’m one of those cooks who is notorious for preparing recipes I’ve never tried before when there’s a special occasion looming. It doesn’t matter whether it’s for family, close friends, or a party for 40, I can guarantee that everything I make will be new to me. I’m sure that to some, I’m either grossly egotistic, or to others, a complete fool. I’d say adventuresome — or a glutton for punishment. The thrill of discovery during the planning process far exceeds any worry I could have about screwing something up. I love sifting through my magazines, cookbooks, and favorite web sites looking for the perfect recipe — especially if it’s something totally new.
So when Helen contacted me about doing this guest post, after initially grinning like a sap, I felt as if I’d been given permission to create the biggest planning mess I’ve made in a while. Cookbooks and magazines everywhere. A bookmarking frenzy on my Mac. Silly questions about "which recipe would be best" posed to my 16-year-old son who patiently indulged me with a more than one-syllable response. It was as if I’d been invited to a lovely party and then realized I didn’t have anything to wear. Even if I actually had a particular recipe in mind, and said recipe came out perfectly, I’d have to take photos.
Ah, the photos. I’ve all but swooned over Helen’s ethereal photos at one point or another. Light and airy, softly beckoning me to linger over what she has prepared, each photo taunts me with a "just you go ahead and try to make this, girlie!" And I think, in time — all in good time after kicking my procrastination skills into high gear. I met Helen last last Fall at the wedding of a mutual friend, and it took no time at all to learn just why her work is as flawless as it appears. She’s patiently persistent, works hard, is extremely focused, works hard, and has a seemingly bottomless reservoir of energy. Did I mention how hard she works? Meeting her was an absolute pleasure. Clearly, I had to make something that would have a chance of gracing the page, right?
Ironically, I came very close to baking a Paris Brest, something I’ve made before, but at the last minute, changed my mind. I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that the last time I made pate a choux, I was less than thrilled with the outcome. Instead, I’ll blame it on the photograph I saw in this month’s issue of Gourmet of the "Pavlova with Lemon Curd and Berries." Its imperfect, simple appearance reminded me of a galette and prodded me to reconsider the long standing issue I’ve had with meringue. Not the meringue on pies — meringue that’s baked. For some reason, I’ve always steered clear of it, not quite relishing the sensation it causes in my teeth when I bite into it. Or maybe it’s the near weightlessness of it. Surely something so light can’t have much substance. Excuses, excuses.
But I was mesmerized by the Pavlova, a dessert named after the famous Russian ballerina who, after touring Australia and New Zealand in the 1930’s, is said to have had this dessert named after her. Although it’s the "light and airy" aspect of her dancing that the dessert was created to mimic, I’m reminded more of a flouncy tutu, fluffed high with tuille. Just beautiful.
I’ve been savoring this dessert since yesterday, marveling over extreme contrasts in texture and flavor. The meringue crust, so delicate that touching it causes it to shatter, melts on my tongue. In the center, the meringue is a creamy, marshmallow treat, its sweetness tempered by the tartness of the lemon cream. The combination of the berries and grapes add a perfect crunch that brings it all together. Whimsical, unpredictable, and oh so delicious.
Here’s to you, Helen. You’re an inspiration to me in many ways and I’m quite honored to have done this for you.
Pavlova with Lemon Cream, Berries, and Grapes
For the meringue…
1 cup superfine granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 large eggs at room temperature 30 minutes
3 tablespoons cold water
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
For the filling…
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 stick unsalted butter
3 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups mixed berries
2 cups grapes
Preheat oven to 300ºF and position a rack in the center.
To prepare the lemon cream, stir sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a saucepan. Add the lemon juice and butter, bringing the mixture to a simmer over medium high heat. Continue to whisk at a simmer, about 1 minute. Whisk about 1/4 of the mixture into the beaten egg yolks, then transfer the egg yolk mixture back into the saucepan. Over low heat, continue to cook, but make sure not to boil, whisking constantly until the lemon curd is thick, about 2 minutes. Scrape into a shallow bowl, stir in the lemon zest, and place a piece of parchment over the surface. Refrigerate for about 1-1/2 hours.
To prepare the meringue, line a baking sheet with parchment and trace a circle about 7″ in diameter in the center. Turn the parchment over.
Whisk superfine sugar and cornstarch together in a small bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat whites with a pinch of salt at medium speed until soft peaks form. Add the water and beat until whites hold soft peaks once again.
On medium-high, beat in sugar mixture 1 Tbsp at a time. After all sugar has been added, beat 1 minute longer. Add vinegar, then beat at high speed until glossy and stiff peaks form, about 5 minutes (longer if using hand-held mixer). The meringue will be extremely thick.
Spread meringue carefully to cover the circle on the parchment, creating a cavity in the center (for the filling). Bake until meringue is pale golden and has a crust, about 45 minutes. Avoid opening the oven door! Turn oven off and prop door open slightly with a wooden spoon. Cool meringue in oven 1 hour. The exterior will be dry and possibly cracked, the inside more like the consistency of marshmallow.
To assemble the pavlova, beat the heavy cream just as it holds stiff peaks, then 1/4 cup at a time, whisk cream into the lemon curd. Check consistency each time before adding more cream. It should be able to mound. Spoon lemon cream into cooled meringue and mound fruit in the center. Serve with extra whipped cream if desired.