Saturday, October 18, 2008
The Dying Swan with a meringue side please - my first Pavlova
I've wanted to try Pavlova and try making a Pavlova for a long time and the latest issue of the Estonian version of the Good Food magazine (Oma Maitse) ran an article on it, which just signified, that the time had come. So my mind was set, but it did seem like a bit of an overkill to whip up a Pavlova for just the two of us to snack on in the evenings. And again - divine intervention - a friend of mine shot a deer on a weekend and invited us over for a dinner party (I'll do a separate post on that later on). So, the Pavlova was to be prepared and taken to the dinner party.
I used the recipe from Oma Maitse as a base, but did some additional research on the web, as it appeared that they, for example, had forgotten a crucial ingredient - vinegar. And one does not mess with the chemical reactions of something as delicate as a perfect meringue base.
Raspberry and mascarpone Pavlova:
3 large egg-whites or 4 smaller ones
175 gr sugar
1 tsp potato or corn starch
1 tsp of white wine vinegar
vanilla-sugar or extract (optional)
300 gr frozen raspberries (you can use any other fruit, the more sour ones as strawberries, kiwis etc are preferred)
50 g powdered sugar
300 ml whipping cream
250 gr mascarpone cheese
Blend the raspberries and mix in half of the powdered sugar, set aside. Whip up the whipped cream with the rest of the powdered sugar and then mix in the mascarpone.
Put a layer of mascarpone cream in a tupperware, then a layer of the raspberry-mix, then again a layer of cream and so on until you've used up all of it. Cover with a lid and stick in the freezer for 2 - 2.5 hrs.
I think the freezing bit is really important as the coldness and the ice-creaminess of the consistency really adds a lot to the Pavlova. Plain, warm whipped cream takes half of the joy out of the cake.
But the key to a good Pavlova is clearly the meringue base and it is important when making any meringue that the egg whites reach maximum volume, so here are a couple of tips I picked up from various postings online and found really helpful:
- take the eggs out of the fridge for at least an hour before beating them or put the eggs into some warm water for about 10 minutes. It's best if the egg-whites are at room-temperature when you start beating;
- make sure your mixing bowl and whisk are clean and free of grease.
- castor sugar or superfine sugar will dissolve faster when making the meringue, so you might want to process the regular sugar in a food processor before starting.
- make sure you bake it slowly on a low temperature and let it cool of slowly
Preheat the oven to 140 C. Beat the egg-whites until they hold soft peaks. Start adding the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, and continue to beat until the meringue holds very stiff peaks. Make sure the sugar has dissolved (it doesn't feel gritty between your fingers). Sprinkle the vinegar and cornstarch (and optionally the vanilla) over the top of the meringue and fold in. Adding these is absolutely crucial - the starch will give the base a crust that is dry and crisp and the vinegar will make the insides soft and marshmallow-like.
Draw a circle on some baking paper using a dinner-plate. Gently spread the meringue inside the circle drawn on the parchment paper one spoonful at a time. Make sure the edges of the meringue are slightly higher than the center.
Bake for 1 hr 15 minutes or 1.5 hrs until it's dry and crisp.
Let it cool with the oven door open.
You can make the base in advance, it will be fine in a dry place (covered) for at least 2-3 days.
Before serving take the mascarpone-cream out of the freezer and mound spoonfuls of cream carefully on the base. Decorate with berries.
It is SO worth the trouble. The sweetness and the texture of the meringue against the mellow cream with sour stripes. Fantabulous.
One of our friends who is usually not all that excited about food had two pieces and ended up taking the leftovers (there was just 6 of us and this cake easily serves 10) home with him. I'm still to make sure he didn't eat it all that night...
Oh, and the word to the wise - it is not the best choice of a cake to take somewhere. Quite the balancing act. But that was the only glitch in my otherwise perfect plan :)