Tuesday, January 5, 2010

pavlova - indescribable delectable deliciousness

pavlova - 41My mother has lived in many different countries throughout her life, one of which being Australia. She mentioned to me how much she loves Pavlova, which is actually a famous dessert from there. Frankly, I've never even heard of Pavlova before, but after seeing how easy the recipe was, I offered to make it for her. Essentially a Pavlova is a large meringue with a slight depression in the center which is filled with whipped cream and fruit. What was even more coincidental was the fact that we already had like 6 egg whites stored in the fridge because of the Tiramisu we made last week which needed 6 egg yolks.

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Typically a Pavlova is made with castor sugar, which is a much finer version of our granulated sugar. Instead of going out and buying castor sugar, I found online that it was possible to make your own at home. Granulated sugar can be broken up much smaller by pulsing it in a food processor for about 30 seconds.

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The egg whites get beaten until they reach soft peaks, where they then get continuously yet slowly sprinkled with the ground sugar.

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If you look really closely, you'll notice the slight sprinkle of sugar. The sugar is added slowly because it needs to gradually react and dissolve into the egg whites.

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My mother, who is not a "sweets-person", kept hinting to me to not use all the sugar the recipe stated. She said that it would "be too sweet" and basically to not follow the recipe. We all know how much I advocate following the recipe precisely (unless you've made it before and you can make that judgment), but since it was for my mom, and the sugar wasn't technically needed, I left out a tablespoon or so of sugar. But look how glossy and stiff the meringue is; it really is mind-boggling how this transformed out of egg whites.

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I have to admit- I love using an actual hand mixer. Because- recall my cheap ass $7 hand mixer from Walmart that claims to have 5 speeds, but in all actuality all the speeds are variations of fast and super-fast. And all this time I thought the lowest speed on all hand mixers were all this fast.

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Like the instructions said, I drew a 7 inch circle on my foil for me to fill the meringue in perfectly. I first followed the outline of the circle and then added the remaining meringue on top.

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Then I used my spatula to gently create a well in the center.

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After baking for an hour in the oven, I pulled this strange creation out. Really mom? This is supposed to taste fantastic? (Mind you, I've never had a meringue that I can remember, so I have no idea what to expect.)

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I'm just being honest, but it looks burnt. My mom assured me that it was not burnt, and in fact, just right.

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So at this point, my parents' fridge was completely full of food (mostly sweets created by moi) and I didn't want to crowd their fridge with any more. Instead of doing what is typically done with Pavlovas (filling the dip in the center with whipped cream and then sprinkling fruit on top), I decided to cut a slice (like a slice of pie) and then cover it with the appropriate toppings for me to at least taste.

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I'm still skeptical at this point, staring at this marshmallow-looking pie slice.

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Before preparing my toppings, I picked off a piece of this "burnt" looking crust to take a taste. I cannot attempt to properly describe the following sensation... It was a melt-in-your-mouth delicious sweet-but-not-too-sweet crumbly-yet-chewy feeling. Only now was I excited to taste the final product.

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I quickly squirted out the whipped cream and sprinkled blueberries all around.

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So I tasted my first complete bite of Pavlova- with the melting crust I tasted earlier, along with the soft marshmallowy center, the light whipped cream, and the sweet fruit. My opinion? It tasted delicious; like something I have never tasted before.

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The contrast between the crisp exterior and the fluffy interior creates this happy-dance in your mouth (no lie). The whipped cream and fruit assist in this deliciousness, but play a very minor role in the final taste.

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Needless to say, I actually ate the entire plate (secret: I usually don't eat all the food that I put on the plate in the photo).

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Although I probably won't make another Pavlova any time soon, I'll definitely be experimenting with more meringue-type recipes. Thank you Australia and my mother for opening my eyes to new things.

Taken from Joy of Baking.

4 large egg whites
1 cup superfine (castor) sugar (or granulated sugar pulsed in the food processor)
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch

Whipped cream
Fresh fruit (kiwi, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, passion fruit, peaches, pineapple, or other fruit of your choice)

1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F and place rack in center of oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and draw a 7 inch circle on the paper.
2. In the bowl of your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until they hold soft peaks. Start adding the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, and continue to beat until the meringue holds very stiff peaks. (Test to see if the sugar is fully dissolved by rubbing a little of the meringue between your thumb and index finger. The meringue should feel smooth, not gritty. If it feels gritty the sugar has not fully dissolved so keep beating until it feels smooth between your fingers). Sprinkle the vinegar and cornstarch over the top of the meringue and, with a rubber spatula, fold in.
3. Gently spread the meringue inside the circle drawn on the parchment paper, smoothing the edges, making sure the edges of the meringue are slightly higher than the center. (You want a slight well in the center of the meringue to place the whipped cream and fruit.)
4. Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes or until the outside is dry and takes on a very pale cream color. Turn the oven off, leave the door slightly ajar, and let the meringue cool completely in the oven. (The outside of the meringue will feel firm to the touch, if gently pressed, but as it cools you will get a little cracking and you will see that the inside is soft and marshmallowy.)
5. The cooled meringue can be made and stored in a cool dry place, in an airtight container, for a few days.
6. Just before serving gently place the meringue onto a serving plate. Whip the cream in your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, until soft peaks form. Sweeten with the sugar and vanilla and then mound the softly whipped cream into the center of the meringue. Arrange the fruit randomly, or in a decorative pattern, on top of the cream. Serve immediately as this dessert does not hold for more than a few hours.

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