Summer Pavlova

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

A fabulous looking dessert, the pavlova is named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, and was supposedly created in a hotel in Wellington, New Zealand during Anna's visit in 1926. The exact origins are still much debated as both Australia and New Zealand lay claim to this meringue cake and declare it as their celebratory and holiday dessert.

The pavlova is a meringue cake that serves as a base, crispy on the outside with a soft and moist interior that is typically made in the summer months when a bounty of berries are in season to grace the top of the cake.

Most pavs, as they are affectionately known, will have a sweetened whipped cream layer upon which the fruits will lay. We are upping the ante with crème pâtissière ;) in addition to the traditional whipped cream layer. Oh yes! Going all out on this one.

Fortunately, our fruit platters runneth over with luscious and succulent fruits this week: strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, kiwis, and mangoes, and they all played a part in making our summer pavlova as exquisite as it looks.

How about that mango rose ;)? My mom in law was staying with us and roses are her favourite. We came across a picture of it online and she promptly convinced me to try my hand at it. We were both elated to see it come out so beautifully.

This recipe makes an impressively tall-ish 9 inch deep dish meringue base to serve as your canvas.

150 ml or 5 large egg whites, at room temperature
180 g (1-1/2 cups) icing sugar
2 tsp vanilla  extract
1 tsp vinegar
2 tbsp cornstarch

Crème pâtissière
240 ml (1 cups) milk
1 vanilla pods
2 tbsp sugar
2 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp flour
2 tsp cornstarch

Sweet cream
300 ml (1-1/4 cup) heavy cream, cold
2 tbsp icing sugar

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper to fit, then trace a 9 inch circle (using a cake pan) with a pencil.
2. Turn the paper around so you won't be piping onto the penciled side.

3. Preheat the oven to 130C or 260F.
4. In the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites on high speed until it forms soft peaks.
5. Add the icing sugar to the egg whites, a tablespoon at a time until the meringue has turned smooth, glossy and holds its peaks firmly. This could take 4-5 minutes.

6. Remove the bowl from the stand and fold  in the vanilla, vinegar and cornstarch quickly.
7. Spoon large chunks of the meringue in the middle of that circle and even it out to make a smooth disk with raised sides to hold in all that goodness.
8. Use teeny bits of meringue to 'glue' the parchment down to the baking sheet in the corners. They have a tendency to curl up and touch your pretty sculpted meringue.

9. Bake for 75-80 minutes until firm to the touch. Turn the oven off but leave the pav inside with the door closed for another hour and half until completely cool. It should be crisp on the outside but still fluffy and soft inside.

Crème pâtissière
While the meringue is in the oven, start your crème pâtissière ...
1. With plastic wrap, line a heatproof dinner plate and set aside.
2. With a paring knife, cut the vanilla lengthwise and scrape with the back of the knife to remove the seeds. 
3. In a small saucepan, simmer the milk, the vanilla pod and seeds, and the first 2 tablespoons of sugar.
4. In a heat proof bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the 1/4 cup of sugar.
5. To this, add the flour and the cornstarch and mix completely.
6. From the saucepan, remove the vanilla bean, scrape whatever is left into the mixture.
7. Pour about half of the warmed milk into the bowl of egg yolks and sugar. Whisk until smooth.
8. Turn the heat up slowly to bring the remaining milk to a boil.
9. Now add the egg and milk mixture back into the saucepan and keep on whisking vigorously.
The mixture should be smooth and glossy, and the vla will start to bubble and 'burp.'
10. Pour the cream into the lined plate and fold the plastic wrap over to make it 'air tight'
11. Set aside to chill. Give it a little whisking before using.

Sweet cream
Before assembling ...
1. In a preferably chilled bowl, whisk the cold heavy cream with the icing sugar until it thickens and holds firm. Do not overbeat.

To serve:
1. Remove the cooled meringue from the oven and place it on a platter.
2. Prepare your fruits ... wash and cut them into desired shapes and sizes. 
3. Spoon the cooled crème pâtissière on it (you may not need to use it all ... then again ... you could)
4. Layer the sweetened cream on top of it.
5. Arrange the prepared fruits on top decoratively.
Et violà!

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