Sunday, December 25, 2011

You Say Meringue, I Say Pavlova

     Today I’m presenting a recipe for a meringue or ‘Pavlova’ (Named in honor of a Russian born ballet dancer sometime in 1920’s.) So if you want to sound pretentious or impress your foodie friends go ahead a wow them with that gem. On to the recipe…

     They say the third time’s a charm; whoever ‘they’ are might be right. I attempted a similar recipe to this one a while back and was unsuccessful. It was a spur of the moment, off the cuff attempt to make a flourless dessert in order to create a tasty, creative, gluten free dessert. (Gluten free seems to be all the rage these days, so it’s nice to have a go-to if such a need arises.) I walked away from that attempt defeated and read up on some other similar recipes and felt compelled to give it another try. My second attempt was close to successful but not exactly what I was looking for. Determined, I went back to the drawing board and simplified the recipe and focused on the technique. The real key to this recipe, I found, is beating the eggs properly and monitoring the baking closely.
2 Large Eggs Whites
½ Cup Sugar
½ tsp. Vanilla Extract

1 Cup Fresh Berries. (I used raspberries this time)
1/2 Cup Water
1/2 Cup Sugar

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. and place rack in the middle. Prep a sheet pan with parchment paper or silicon baking mat.

In a medium mixing bowl separate eggs and either discard the yolks or set aside for another recipe. Cover with plastic wrap and let egg whites come to room temperature (about 20 mins.) as this will aid in the whipping process. Begin to beat egg whites on medium until frothy; at this point gradually begin to incorporate sugar slowly, I sprinkled about 1 tbsp. at a time until all the sugar was in the mix. Add vanilla extract. Turn up the mixer to med/high, and beat until shiny and stiff peaks form.

**What are stiff peaks? – When you turn your mixer off and pull the beaters up straight out of the mixture peaks will form on the end of the beaters, turn your mixer 90 degrees and stiff peaks will hold their shape on the beaters. If the peaks sag or drip, continue beating.

So now you’ve got stiff peaks, distribute the mixture on the prepared sheet pan creating approximately six individual ‘cakes.’ Place pan on the middle rack and bake at 250 for 45 minutes. When the 45 minutes is up turn off the oven, and slightly crack the door and allow cakes to cool in place. This will ensure the crispy exterior while maintaining the creamy marshmallow inside.

**Side note – if you notice a lot of syrupy droplets forming on the surface of the cakes while they are cooking that is a sign of overcooking, and if there is liquid oozing from the edges of the cakes, this is indicative of undercooking. Make sure to monitor closely as you may have to adjust your cooking time accordingly.

To make the topping – Combine sugar, water and half of the berries in a small sauce pan, cover and put over medium heat. As soon as the mixture begins to simmer, and form bubbles on the top reduce heat to the burner’s lowest setting. Let the syrup steep for about 5 minutes and then strain with a fine mesh strainer to remove the seeds. Remember that the syrup will be thin while it’s still warm, it will thicken when cooled.

At this point you’ve got a fruit syrup fit for a variety of applications; put it in your tea or other drinks, use it in smoothies or milkshakes, or kick up your yogurt.

**Optional embellishments: Add a touch of freshly grated cinnamon, clove or ginger for a spicy kick, steep the syrup with orange zest or a dash of balsamic vinegar, or rather than water start with your favorite variety of tea for a complex flavor.

**MORE side notes – if you want more syrup to store and use later, simply increase all the quantities proportionally. The syrup is simply a 1:1 ratio, the fruit and/or flavoring is complete up to your personal taste.

Serving suggestions – Top cake with remaining fresh berries and syrup, sprinkle with shaved/chopped mint dark chocolate. (pictured) OR top with mixed fresh fruit and a dollop of whipped cream OR drizzle with chocolate sauce and sprinkle with candies. The possibilities for serving this dessert are essentially endless at this point.

     One final bit of advice, as with any recipe, don’t get too discouraged. If it doesn’t come out right the very first time, take time to research and recognize where improvements can be made and when you’re ready give it another try. It’s always a learning experience in the kitchen regardless, win, lose or draw.