Sunday, November 17, 2013

Fairy Food for the Holidays: Pavlova

I know this will come as a shock, but I'm sort of addicted to food-related television. I grade papers with Julia Child's shows on in the background (I have them on DVD). I wait in eager anticipation every week for Top Chef like other folks look forward to The Walking Dead. Anyhoo, I was watching reruns of Masterchef: Australia on Youtube the other day, and they made pavlova. Named for the famous Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova, this really does look like fairy food. Having never heard of pavlova before, I immediately started reading about it. Evidently, it's considered a summery dessert (though Aussies eat it year round), though it feels holiday-esque to me.
It's simple to construct, as long as you're careful. I used Alton Brown's recipe
His instructions were clear and simple (though 4 ounces of egg white is approximately the white of 4 large eggs, and 6 ounces of sugar is just in between 3/4 and 1 cup). If you forget to get your eggs out in advance, put them in a bowl of tepid water to bring them to room temp.
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Follow his instructions to get the glossy, white mix that you can then shape into a cake-ish circle. I just threw some parchment paper over the bottom of  a springform pan. It worked great.
Admittedly, I did s#$% the bed on this one a little bit in my impatience. When Brown says to let it cool in the oven by letting the door hang open, do it. I, however, really wanted to see it!
So I did. I put it on a cold granite counter. It's supposed to have a few cracks in it like this, but the too-rapid cooling made mine crater a little bit. Clearly, I have the impulse control of a toddler. I do think that next time I will make little single-serving circles because cutting into the big one caused it to break up a bit, which is evidently normal. However, it is sweet and airy and lovely. 

I made a red wine-saffron sauce to go with mine. I really like booze in my food. And while I'm cooking it. And while I'm eating it. This boozy concoction makes a deep reddish-purple, rich, spicy sauce. In a saucepan, combine 1 3/4 cups water, 1 1/2 cups red wine, 2 T balsamic vinegar, 3 T honey, and 1/3 cup sugar. Let that simmer for about 15 minutes or so until it slightly reduces. Taste it and make sure you like the level of sweetness. Remember though, that the pavlova is an extremely sweet dessert to begin with, so you may not want the other components super-sweet as well. To your reduction, add 2T corn starch (mix in a separate bowl with 2T water and then add), a tiny scrape of nutmeg, 2 cloves, and a pinch of saffron. Let this boil for about a minute and then turn off the heat. Remove cloves.

We're big fans of homemade whipped cream around here. I used an 8 oz. carton of heavy whipping cream, 1T powdered sugar, and 1/2 t. orange extract. Whip with a hand mixer until peaks form. Do not comment on how generally dirty this section sounds.
Pavlova with red-wine reduction, whipped cream, and strawberries! It's crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. The tart strawberries were a good contrast to the sweetness. As much as I generally hate reality television, I have to say that I quite like watching food programs like Masterchef when it's set in other countries. On the down side, it's a huge contrast to the American version, which is much more focused on the theatrics, but on the upside, it's nice to see people being pleasant to one another, and even better, getting to learn about food I've never experienced, which makes me mad to try it. And even more fun, people who make this dessert routinely seem to be engaged in an unspoken contest to see who can pile the most topping on their fragile pavlova before the whole thing collapses. Check it out:
Kiwi, strawberry, and passion fruit are the most common toppings.
How is this not collapsed?
I'm so tempted to see how much I can load on with the next one.
Recipes after the jump!!

Pavlova
I looked at several recipes and read several reviews. I chose Alton Brown's recipe because I'm a Brown fan, and let's be honest, I actually had the ingredients for his in my possession. 
Red Wine and Saffron Sauce
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups red wine
  • 2 T balsamic vinegar
  • 3 T honey
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 T corn starch + 2 T cold water to mix
  • pinch nutmeg
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1/2 t saffron
In a saucepan, combine 1 3/4 cups water, 1 1/2 cups red wine, 2 T balsamic vinegar, 3 T honey, and 1/3 cup sugar. Let that simmer for about 15 minutes or so until it slightly reduces. Taste it and make sure you like the level of sweetness. Remember though, that the pavlova is an extremely sweet dessert to begin with, so you may not want the other components super-sweet as well. To your reduction, add 2T corn starch (mix in a separate bowl with 2T water and then add), a tiny scrape of nutmeg, 2 cloves, and a pinch of saffron. Let this boil for about a minute and then turn off the heat. Remove cloves when the flavor is good for you.

Whipped Cream

  • 8 oz. heavy whipping cream
  • 1 T powdered sugar
  • 1/2 t orange extract
We're big fans of homemade whipped cream around here. I used an 8 oz. carton of heavy whipping cream, 1T powdered sugar, and 1/2 t. orange extract. Whip with a hand mixer until peaks form.