“Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first.” ~Ernestine Ulmer.
And if I may complement this piece of prudent wisdom “… start with a pavlova!” Because after you have tasted this true piece of heaven, whatever may come after that will just be consolation in the form of dessert.
I can remember everything about my first bite of a fresh fruit pavlova. After spending a blissful day discovering the treasures of the Notre Dame cathedral and getting lost in fantasies and tales my friend interlaced to keep me engrossed throughout the morning, he suggested we go for dessert!
“Dessert?” I asked surprised “But we have not even had lunch!”
He laughed and replied “We start with dessert first in Paris!”
Carle was from Brest and came to Paris to study Art History and Fine Arts at the American University of Paris. I came to the university to study French and literature for their 3 month summer course. We met during a long lazy lunch a friend had organized and ended up having a heated debate about the American way of life versus the savoir faire of France. Carle was enamored by the big easy America seemed to portray and for me France, Europe in general, was the doorway to everything I wanted to learn, to inhale and to live - art, history, literature, style, cuisine - it had all I desired.
As we crossed the Pont d’Arcole leaving the Notre Dame cathedral behind us, I was imagining éclairs, Tarte au Chocolate and Charlottes, turning to Carle and trying to guess what I would be indulging in. The last thing I remember was passing by the Centre Georges Pompidou, after which Carle and I got involved in another one of our heated discussions. He led me down a small winding street and finally we stopped at an inconspicuous little bistro at the corner of a street.
He went inside as I took a seat on one of the free tables outside. Coming out with big bowls of creamy café au lait he informed me that I was going to taste heaven.
I was breathless at the sight as the waiter placed the plate and offered me one of the two spoons. A light caramel colored meringue, distinctly cracked and beautiful in its imperfectness. The crisp shell with a luscious marshmellowy, chewy center was topped with lashings of, ever so lightly sweetened, whipped cream and spilling over the plate ruby red raspberries and deep blue blueberries shimmered in the afternoon sun.
If ever the heavens should open and beam an incandescent ray of sunlight directly on my head and a chorus of heavenly angles sing in all their glory, that would have been the perfect moment as I savored my first bite of a pavlova.It was the most delightful experience to say the least.
I went on to learn how to make pavlova in the hotel pastry kitchen during my Hotel Management training. Taking in all the intricacies and noting all the dos & don’ts of making a perfect pavlova. Every time I do make a pavlova I silently thank Carle for sharing this memorable experience with me.
Truth be told though, making a pavlova is not rocket science and by no means should one be intimidated by the lengthy recipes. There are just few tips and tricks one needs to keep in mind, but I urge all those who have been shying away from making a homemade pavlova - dive in and dare. To help you along I’ve noted these tips and tricks for you here.
How to make the perfect Pavlova
- For every 1 egg white you use in your meringue you should calculate 55g of sugar.
- The addition of cornstarch / cornflour and vinegar helps create a soft marshmallow center and a crisp crust.
- Fresh egg whites separate easier so make sure they are as fresh as can be.
- Make sure you use a clean and dry bowl while whisking your egg whites - any grease or moisture will stop your eggs from aerating.
- Overbeating egg white breaks down the structure and the meringue is most likely to collapse during baking. Beat until firm peaks form, then start adding sugar. If the egg white starts to separate or looks curdled - it’s too late: you'll need to start again with fresh egg whites.
- The sugar needs to be added gradually, occasionally scraping down the side of the bowl. Once all the sugar is added, whisk for a further 2-3 minutes or until the mixture is thick and glossy. Make sure that the sugar is completely dissolved, as undissolved sugar causes "weeping". This happens when moisture forms on the meringue, so if the mixture is grainy, continue whisking.
- If you overbeat the mixture after adding the sugar, your meringue may crack and collapse during baking. To avoid this, only beat the mixture until the sugar dissolves. To test this rub a little of the mixture between your fingertips.
- I usually draw a circle on the back of my baking paper as a stencil, which helps keep the meringue in shape.
- Use a palette knife to pull the meringue mixture upwards around the edge to create furrows. This helps support the sides of the pavlova, and prevent it from cracking too much and collapsing.
- I make a well in the center of the meringue so that it looks almost like a bowl. This is perfect to hold the filling comfortably.
- After baking the meringue according to your recipe, turn the oven off. Leave the meringue in the oven, with door ajar, for up to 6 hours to cool completely. If you remove the meringue when it's still warm it will cool too quickly, and may crack and collapse.
- Some people like their meringue really dry and airy, for which you would leave it in the oven, with door ajar, overnight. Or you can pull it out a little earlier, leaving the center gooey and chewy.
- The meringue may be made 2-3 days ahead and stored in an airtight container, but the pavlova should be filled only shortly before serving as otherwise it will get soggy and lose it’s crispness.
When it comes to fillings your imagination is the limit! The classic pavlova will be filled with a cream Chantilly (lightly sweetened whipped cream) and topped with an assortment of fresh fruit like kiwis, strawberries, blueberries. Most fruits love pavlova, so do not hesitate to use fresh peaches or plums, sliced pineapple chunks, passion fruit, mangoes or a combination of fruit. If you do not fancy fruit for a topping there are many other choices. Try nuts or a combination of nuts and coarsely chopped chocolate. I have even made a breakfast pavlova topped with granola! You can also use mascarpone, fruit curds and preserves for your pavlova - no limitations.
Earlier this week I asked my Twitter friends what their favorite fillings and toppings for a pavlova were and here are a few of my favorites:
and finally do not miss Catty’s divine pavlova with strawberries, blueberries and passionfruit. it seems we both had pavlova on our minds this weekend!
Thank you to all who replied with your awesome ideas!
My pavlova today is a special treat for Chris of Mele Cotte, who is my gracious hostess for the Monthly Mingle this month. Chris has chosen the perfect theme to welcome Spring along with “Berries & Cherries”!
The Black Forest Pavlova is my twist on the famous German cake, the Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte. I make a basic meringue and fill it with a light quark cream flavored with Kirsch. I top it with sweet, plump Morello cherries, which also have been macerated in Kirsch, finally shavings of dark Lindt chocolate kiss the pavlova for a decadent touch! This would be the perfect dessert for your Easter brunch or dinner.
Before I let you loose on the recipe, allow me to inform you that due to two unexpected cancellations two spots have freed up on our Plate to page Workshop in Somerset this May. These are the last two spots and for those who were eager to come join us but did not make the registration in time you might just be in luck. Have a look at the programme, details about accommodation, and then you can register here.
Enjoy the pavlova!
I cannot begin to explain the feeling of excitement I get every time I take the first bite from a pavlova (providing it is a good one). I guess the choir of angels are always there to sing in chorus even after all these years. This pavlova is a delight. I like to add quark to my whipped cream as it provides a little substance and I really like the slightly tangy flavor it gives. The Kirsch was very subtle even though it is added to all three components and the cherries sweet and juicy. We cut out big wedges of the pavlova, sinking back into our chairs to enjoy each pavlova moment.
To you in the Northern hemisphere, hope you are enjoying the gorgeous Spring weather and to you in the Southern hemisphere take in all the gorgeous Fall colors. I’m getting back to working on my presentations for the Dubai workshop and together with Sally sending out the final details to all our participants. We’ve organized a great two day session and thanks to Atlantis, The Palm, who have been extremely generous sponsors, we have an amazing venue in Nasimi Beach. Sally is busy packing the goodie bags, which are bulging with incredible products sponsored by some great companies. On day two we have also planned a fun field trip sponsored by Lafayette Gourmet, who are putting together a great event for us.
Enjoy the week!
More perfect Easter dessert ideas from WFLH:
|Chocolate Pavlova with Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse, Honey Roasted Peaches and Fresh Raspberries||Rhubarb Pear Sponge Pudding with Vanilla Sauce||Mango & Passionfruit Tiramisu|
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