08 August 2007
Making Amends with Pavlova.
A little while ago, I posted a cheater's version of pavlova: it was beautiful, delicious, took five minutes to make, and you all loved it. I loved it too, but I was left with a little nagging feeling. I still had yet to make a real pavlova, and if I wanted to earn my baking-stripes, this was something I needed to do.
It was only when searching around in the back of my cabinet, I happened upon some leftover hibiscus powder, and then I got excited. I could make a hibiscus meringue base, then I could scent the berries with rosewater. A hibiscus and rose pavlova, I was practically salivating at the thought of it.
The day came: we were having six people for dinner, I was making the pavlova, I went to the market in the morning and got the berries. Did I mention the temperature that day was 100 F with 100% humidity? Any other sane person would have realized that this was not the day to attempt a delicate meringue in a kitchen with only moderate air conditioning and the prospect of guests arriving. Clearly I am not a sane person.
So, I set about the making the base, beating my egg whites, adding the sugar in a slow stream. Beating, and beating, but the egg whites did not form peaks. No matter what I did, they remained a sugary thick liquid. Hmmmph. So, I started over, fresh egg whites, a super clean bowl and beaters. And it happened again- no peaks! Now, not only was I not sane, but I was not happy. I had a growing pile of egg yolks and wasted egg whites staring at me. I've beaten my fair share of meringues and souffles, and this has never happened to me. But I was also determined. A trip to the store to get a dozen more eggs and sugar, and another go. Finally, it worked, the egg whites beat up into a stiff shiny meringue, dyed beautifully purple by the hibiscus powder. Phew.
I baked the base of the pavlova and made the filling with relatively little incident. Because it was so humid out I baked it a tad longer than I should have and as a result the base browned too much, then wept a little, it wasn't perfect. Serving it at an outdoor event in the humidity probably didn't help. I think the pavlova gods are still mad at me because I cheated before. But after all that, would I make this pavlova again? Absolutely. It's beyond delicious. The hibiscus powder (available in Latin groceries, or you can make your own by grinding up hibiscus tea), adds a lovely tart element to a dish that can often be overwhelmingly sweet. The rosewater has just the right perfumed noted (I often add rosewater to fruit salads), and the texture is a marvelous combination of crunch, marshmallowy chew, soft cream, and bright berries. I'm definitely making this again, though maybe on a less humid day. Now, if someone could just tell me what to do with the 12 egg yolks I have leftover?
Hibiscus and Rose Pavlova
I love pavlovas, with their crunchy-chewy meringue shells and bright bursts of fruit. In this version, hibiscus powder adds a tart note to the base and rosewater adds a floral scent to the berries. Hibiscus powder is available at Latin markets, or you can make your own by grinding hibiscus tea, and rosewater is available at Middle Eastern markets. While I love these floral notes, the pavlova will still be excellent if you choose to omit them and simply make a mixed berry pavlova.
4 egg whites
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp cream of tartar or vinegar
3 tbl hibiscus powder
2 cups whipped cream (from 1 cup heavy cream)
1/4 cup strained plain yogurt
3 cups mixed berries
1 spoonful plum jam or seedless berry jam
2-3 drops rosewater
1. Preheat the oven to 325 F. Place the egg whites with the cream of tartar in a clean bowl and beat with a mixer until the egg whites form soft peaks. Add the sugar with the hibiscus powder in a slow stream while continuing to beat. Beat until the mixture form stiff peaks.
2. Spread the meringue on a parchment-lined baking sheet, spread into a 9 inch circle, mounding the edges up. Place in the oven and immediately turn the oven down to 250 F. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, the meringue should be hard on the edges, but should still give a hint of a marshmallowy-soft center when pressed. Turn off the oven, prop the door open, and leave the meringue to cool completely in the oven.
3. Fold together the whipped cream and the strained plain yogurt. In a bowl, stir together the jam and the rosewater, gently fold in the berries, stirring so that they are evenly coated.
4. Just before serving, transfer the meringue base to your serving platter. Spread the whipped cream over the meringue, then pile the berries on top. Slice into wedges and serve.