I still remember the summer I first set foot in Perth. It was almost Christmas time and I felt like a melting scoop of ice-cream. The sweltering heat made me want to just stay in Uncle Michael's cosy house and not doing anything. Having said that, it was a memorable trip for many reasons, but one of the highlights, was the pavlova my aunt Kim served on Christmas morning.
I remembered how the faces of my little cousins lit up when they saw the pavlova. According to the very health conscious family, they ate pavlova (and bacon) only once a year on Christmas morning. Oh well, I wasn't in the position to comment on their habits, but I certainly didn't see what's the deal with this seemingly pale looking "fruit tart".
To be polite, I asked for a small slice not knowing what exactly lay ahead of me. And frankly, I wasn't exactly into anything that didn't have chocolate on it. But the first bite totally converted me! It was the most intriguing dessert I have ever eaten in my 19 years of life! How should I describe my first pavlova experience?
It was a generous stack of summer fruits on a bed of snowy white cream, supported by a sturdy meringue shell. Obviously, I had never heard of meringue at that time. So you can just imagine my excitement when I first put a tentatively small bite of pavlova into my mouth, and sensed the instant melting of meringue. It was a revealing moment. I quickly took a second bite, and the pillowy center of the meringue mixed with fruits reminded me of mashmellow with fruits. That was the coolest dessert I had ever eaten.
While I was having this revealing experience with my tiny slice of pavlova, the rest was promptly gobbled up by my relatives. It was quite sad that I couldn't have a second serving, and that pretty much sum up my pavlova experience. Pavlova is the kind of dessert that once tasted, one will never forget. At least, that is the case for me.
Many years have passed, and I never have another chance to taste pavlova again. I don't know why I didn't search for one the last time I was in Sydney. Perhaps I was scared of being disappointed by my memory. You know how sometime when you crave for something badly, it seems to be ten times more delicious than it actually is. So I didn't look for it.
Last week, while reading the Domestic Goddess Jeniffer's gorgeous blog, she asked other bloggers to post about their most craved, favorite desserts for the sweetest blog event that she is hosting. Naturally, pavlova came to mind. It was my most craved dessert that I couldn't believe I have waited so long to make!
Thank to the little nudge, I have finally reunited with my long lost love. And it didn't disappoint. I took the liberty to include Pierre Herme's lemon cream into the whipped cream, and used the berries I got from the farmer's market. It was a perfect ending for a dinner party we hosted last weekend. This is also my first entry to the Sugar High Fridays. Be sure to check out other food blogger's Sweetest Thing on Jennifer's blog on 29 June.
With the abundant of summer fruits, you shouldn't be surprised to see another pavlova popped up on my blog some time real soon!
p/s: sorry for the dull color of the photos. My batteries were low when I took these shots. :(
Pavlova with Mixed Berries
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
Pinch kosher salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Sweetened Whipped Cream, recipe follows
1/2 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/2 pint fresh blueberries
1/2 pint fresh raspberries
Chocolate curls (optional)
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
Place a sheet of parchment paper on a sheet pan. Draw a 9-inch circle on the paper, using a 9-inch plate as a guide, then turn the paper over so the circle is on the reverse side. (This way you won't get a pencil mark on the meringue.)
Place the egg whites, cream of tartar and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat the egg whites on high speed until firm, about 1 minute. With the mixer still on high, slowly add the sugar and cornstarch, followed by the vanilla extract and beat until it makes firm, shiny peaks, about 2 minutes.
Pile the meringue into the middle of the circle on the parchment paper and smooth it within the circle, making a rough disk. Bake for 1 1/2 hours until the outer side feel dry and hard when touched. Turn off the oven, keep the door ajar, and allow the meringue to cool completely in the oven, about 1 hour. It will be crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.
Invert the meringue disk onto a plate and spread the top completely with sweetened whipped cream. Spoon the berries carefully into the middle of the Pavlova, leaving a border of cream and meringue.
Sweetened Whipped Cream:
2/3 cup cold heavy cream
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup lemon cream
Whip the cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (you can also use a hand mixer). When it starts to thicken, add the sugar and vanilla and continue to beat until firm. Don't overbeat! Fold in the lemon cream.
Yield: 1 cup