Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Summer Pavlova with Strawberries & Blueberries

Sweet, crunchy and meltingly soft, no one knows who first created the Pavlova, an elegant dessert with a fluffy meringue that's filled with whipped cream and fresh fruit, but the name and recipes first began appearing soon after the Russian prima ballerina, Anna Pavlova, toured both Australia and New Zealand in 1926. Considered to be the greatest ballerina of her time, it was said "She doesn't dance, she soars as though on wings." A summer cloud of fruit, cream and meringue, it's no coincidence that the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, is said to have been both ethereal and delicate, just like her namesake dessert.

Russian dancers Anna Pavlova and Nijinsky

It's thought that a chef at a hotel in Wellington, New Zealand created the dish when Pavlova visited there on her world tour. So inspired by her tutu draped in green silk cabbage roses, that the chef created the Pavlova dessert: the shape of the tutu was provided by a meringue case, while the froth of the skirt's net was suggested by whipped cream. To achieve the effect of the green roses the enterprising chef used slices of kiwifruit. While it's been suggested that this dessert was created in New Zealand, it's also recognized as a popular Australian dish, so for sake of staying neutral, we'll say both country's can take the credit for the sumptuous Pavlova, an edible translation of sugar turned into cumulous clouds. As the crisp meringue shell crumbles as you cut through the layers, a burst of berries followed by sweet cream will make you want to get up on your toes and pirouette across the room. Whether you hail from Australia, New Zealand or elsewhere, this is a sumptuous dessert any time of year.

The fresh cold egg whites and icing sugar frothed up beautifully on my second attempt!

Baked for an hour at 300°F and allowed to rest in the over for 2 hours

Strawberry & Blueberry Pavlova
Serves 6

For the Meringue:
4 large fresh egg whites, at room temperature
Pinch of salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons superfine or icing sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
2 tsp white-wine vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the Pavlova:
1 1/4 cups heavy cream, whipped
Mixed berries, such as strawberries, raspberries, blueberries or blackberries
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tbsp Cointreau or Triple Sec

Preheat oven to 350°F. Using an 8-inch bowl as a guide, trace the perimeter of the bowl onto a sheet of parchment paper. Transfer parchment paper, pencil side down, to a baking sheet and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and salt together until glossy peaks form. With mixer running, add sugar 2 tablespoons at a time, beating until the meringue is stiff and glossy. Sprinkle in the cornstarch, vinegar, and vanilla, gently folding to combine.

Mound the meringue in the center of the 8-inch circle, and using a spatula, evenly spread meringue out towards the edges. Transfer the baking sheet to the preheated oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 300°F. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, wash, trim and quarter the strawberries, then place in a large bowl. Sprinkle with white sugar and toss to combine. Stir in a dash of Cointreau, then cover the berries and set aside. Wash and clean any other berries and set aside.

Turn off the oven and let meringue cool completely in oven, for about 2 hours. When the meringue is cool and completely dry, top with a mound of whipped cream and all the mixed berries, and a sprig or two of fresh mint.

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