Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Pavlova 101, The Meringue Based Cake Tutorial

What the heck is a Pavlova? If you've never had one, you're in for a happy delight! Especially if you're gluten-free and trying to go a little more low-fat!Pavlova got it's name in honor of Anna Pavlova, a Russian ballerina who toured Australia and New Zealand in 1926. I'm assuming she was light on her feet and completely delicate.  I'm sharing two version of this recipe today. One is a traditional version from the Joy of Baking, and the other is my higher protein, less sugar version. Both are excellent!

Pavlova is basically a wheat-free, flour-free meringue based cake that has a delicate and crispy crust. The inside is almost a marshmallow center.  My dad, the Pansy Man, has no affection for marshmallow, so we really  never made these when I was growing up. Now however, I have a great love for these bad-boys. Seriously. The crust alone is enough to make me smile. It is just a tender, divine piece of happiness on a plate...if that's possible. 

Usually this remarkable dessert is served with lusciously whipped, lightly-sweet whip cream and fresh fruit.  My personal preference is to make the cream with a kiss of fresh orange zest and a pinch of fresh grated nutmeg, just enough to give a subtle nuance to the cream.  Another secret is I often will dip the fruit in a fresh fruit marinade made from Avocado Oil, lime or lemon juice, and a drizzle of honey.    

The basic tutorial video from Joyofbaking.com (though 8 minutes ) is pretty helpful in seeing how this dessert is made.

 Pavlova on The Joy of Baking.com :

4 large (120 grams) egg whites
1 cup (200 grams) superfine (castor) sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch (corn flour)
1 cup (240 ml) heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 tablespoons (20 grams) granulated white sugar (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Fresh fruit - kiwi, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, passion fruit, peaches, pineapple, or other fruit of your choice

Serves 6 to 8.

Pavlova: Preheat oven to 250 degrees F (130 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and draw a 7 inch (18 cm) circle on the paper. Turn the parchment paper over so the circle is on the reverse side.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium speed until they hold soft peaks. Start adding the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, and continue to beat, on high speed, until the meringue holds very stiff and shiny 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). Beat in the vanilla extract. Sprinkle the vinegar and cornstarch over the top of the meringue and, with a rubber spatula, gently fold in. 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.)

Bake for 60 to 75 minutes or until the outside is dry and is 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.) 

The cooled meringue can be made and stored in a cool dry place, in an airtight container, for a few days. 

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.

My Chef Tess Version uses less sugar and powdered egg white, increasing the protein content quite a bit!

Chef Tess-no-mess-never-fail Meringue from Food Storage

1 1/2  cup warm (not boiling) water
3/4 cup sugar
2T Ultra gel  (modified corn starch)
1T lime or lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla
In a very clean (must be free from any oily film whatsoever!)metal bowl combine the egg white powder and water with a whisk until smooth. Fit a stand mixer with a metal bowl with the wire whisk (again, VERY clean). Pour egg whites into the bowl.
 Turn mixer on medium high setting. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and ultra gel. 
When eggs start to get stiff and glossy, add the sugar mixture in a steady stream to the mixer. 
Continue to whisk about 4 minutes until firm peaks form. Add vanilla  and lemon or lime juice and mix to combine.

 I made personal-sized Pavlova by dividing the meringue into 6   5 inch circles on a parchment lined baking sheet. The parchment will help it not to stick like crazy.  Bake the full 60 minutes at 250 degrees. Turn off the oven and allow the Pavlova to sit an additional hour or more in the oven. I personally leave them in the oven overnight. This just assures they will be dried enough.

For service, top with whip cream and fresh sliced fruit. 

There you go my darlings! You're really going to love this one!

Always My Very Best, 
Your Friend Chef Tess

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