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A Pavlova And A Guest

Pavlova5

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?

Pavlova

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.

Pavlova7


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.

Bittersweet Chocolate and Cardamom Cupcakes

Bittersweet Chocolate - Cardamom Cupcakes


Over the past couple of months I have been consumed by guilt. Even though I had tons of ideas and a couple of sleepless nights I did miss a couple of Sugar High Fridays. Guilty! It matters. It’s sugar. Allright, so "consumed" is a little strong. Upset that I could not work my schedule right to find an hour to make cupcakes is more realistic. When something I could have done starts bugging me, the smaller it is, the more it bugs me. I can easily forget there is an elephant in the room, but if a tiny little fly starts dancing in my head….It will keep dancing and buzzing until I do something about it. The elephant will still be in the room though.

I missed Fanny’s S.O.S for cupcakes but I surely was not going to miss Anita’s call for SHF spiced up sweets. So when C. and I started to plan her upcoming birtday party, the little fly in my head started to dance, loudly. Tap dancing even. Maybe I could combine both.
C: hmm, not sure what I want for dessert for my birthday…
Me: Cupcakes! You want cupcakes!
C: really?
Me: chocolate cupcakes with a hint of cardamom…
C: that’s very grown up for a cupcake
Me: Well, that’s settled then! Chocolate Cardamom Cupcakes! Glad we had this discussion!

Allright, so that was the summed up version. I did give her some space to think and talk more than that, give me some credit here! I did however guided her towards the bittersweet chocolate cupcakes and the addition of cardamom in them which is a spice that she likes as much as I do. The frosting is a simple whipped ganache. Easy, rich and chocolatey to the bone. The combination seems classic and worked well as there were one left for her last night! Too bad I can only send a picture to Anita for this month SHF!!

Bittersweet Chocolate - Cardamom Cupcakes


Bittersweet Chocolate and Cardamom Cupcakes:

Makes 24 cupcakes.
Kitchen Notes: the whipped ganache needs to go on the cupcakes as soon as it is ready so have the cupcakes baked and completely cooled. Make sure the ganache is chilled well before whipping or it might separate.

Note: I noticed a bloop (sorry was typing late night-early morning) and in the ganache I gave the single measure of chocolate for a double measure of cream. My sincere apologies…and yes, I promise to stop typing this late 🙂

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sift together the flour, baking soda, cardamom and salt and set aside.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter and sugar on medium speed until airy and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition (scrape down the sides if necessary). Still on medium speed, add the chocolate and mixing until well incorporated. Add the flour,baking soda and salt alternating with the buttermilk . Make sure that all the ingredients are well incorporated but do not overbeat. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated, but do not overbeat. Spoon the batter into cupcake liners, filling them about 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 20–25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean.

Whipped Ganache Frosting:
12 ounces (360 gr) good quality bittersweet chocolate
2 cups (500ml) heavy cream

Place the chocolate in a medium size bowl and set aside. In a large saucepan set over medium heat, bring the cream to a simmer. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let sit for a couple of minutes. Stir the cream and chocolate together gently until the mass becomes smooth and shiny. Let cool and refrigerate until very cold. When ready to use, whip the ganache until it is holds its shape and spreads easily. Use as soon as it is made or it will be too stiff to pipe. If this happens, just reheat it on top of a double boiler to melt it again, and repeat the cooling and whipping process. If your chocolate is less than 72% bittersweet, add 2 more ounces before adding the hot cream.
We had a tad more than needed but with enough spoons digging into it, it was not a problem.

Bittersweet Chocolate - Cardamom Cupcakes