08 August 2007

Making Amends with Pavlova.

hibiscus and rose 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.

hibiscus powder + meringue

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.


travel girl said...

Make lemon curd with the egg yokes. It's so yummy and refreshing.

Anonymous said...

beautiful! yay for the rosewater--I drizzle it all over my fruit salads. :)

and I wonder why the egg whites wouldn't peak the first two times, but did peak the 3rd time? was it exclusively the heat?

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Hibiscus powder and rose water - that has got to be a fantastic combo. This I want to try next time we're with our sons!

Tee/Tracy said...

My first time at your blog. WOW. I wish I could make this magically appear. I don't think my baking skills are that good. You have some amazing stuff here :p~ <---That's me drooling.

Anonymous said...

Yep, I was also going to tell you to make lemon curd. Or passion fruit curd! I think David Lebovitz has a recipe for that somewhere on his site.

Mercedes said...

Christine- I know, I still have no idea what went on with those egg whites, so weird. Do you think it's possible to have a bad batch of egg whites? Because all the ones in that crate wouldn't whip, but as soon as I got a new box they whipped up just like they should.

mykitchen- do let me know if you try it!

tee- well, what a compliment, thanks!

travel girl and luisa- d'oh, I totally didn't think of curd, brilliant! I already used some for ice cream, now for the curd...

Rima and Kevin said...

Looks very yummy! Make chocolate souffle with the egg yolks...I have mini-heart attacks each time I make souffle when I realize the ratio of yolks to whites that go into it.

Kimberley said...

Hi, Mercedes!

I've been lurking on your blog for a while, so I hope this isn't presumptuous. Please see my post at Tallulah House of 9 August ;)


Anonymous said...

Wow - what a combination, two flowers! I have yet to cook with anything floral, or even eat anything of the sort, aside from tea. But this recipe looks great! What exactly is a pavlova if you don't mind me asking? Great addition with the berries on top!

Unknown said...

That looks really good, Mercedes. I like the idea of using Hibiscus powder. There may be a number of reasons why the egg whites didn't beat up. Most common that I find are.A smidgeon of egg yolk in with the whites. The egg whites not at room temp. The eggs are to fresh. I finally managed to make a pavlova the other night. gave most of it away as it's just tooooo tempting :-)

Mercedes said...

Rima- eek, what kind of souffle do you make?! In my opinion, souffle should have an equal number of whites and yolks, or if anything, more whites than yolks!

Kimberly- thanks so much for de-lurking, and thanks for the praise!

a pavlova is a dessert from Australia/New Zealand (named after ballerina Anna Pavlova). It is comprised of a simple meringue base topped with whipped cream and then with fruit piled on top. So I'm afraid the berries weren't exactly my idea, they're an integral part of the dish.

Another good version includes passion fruit on top, and some people make a chocolate version by adding cocoa powder to the meringue base. Oh yes, and it's great for serving to people with gluten allergies, not to mention delicious!

Sam said...

I have been making pavlovas for 25 years and mine always look just like yours. I love the idea of using hibiscus powder. That's inspirational. Thank you.

LUCA Chocolate said...

Brilliant! I agree with travel girl, nothing beats a good curd. I'd say to go for lime curd, though, it's a really surprising alternative to lemon. I've never heard of hibiscus powder, but I'm definitely going to make a new chocolate filling with it now...thanks!

Mercedes said...

Sam- oh relief, I was worried my pav looked a bit sub-par, but kind words from both an experienced baker and a Brit have bolstered me. Thanks!

chocolate- oh, i love the idea of hibiscus and chocolate, must experiment with that soon...

Hilda said...

Hey Mercedes, that's a beautiful pavlova and I love the rosewater-hibiscus combination. I like to make them too but I learned my about hot humid outdoor events and pavlovas a few summers ago so I don't do it so much anymore for big BBQ-type events.
You could make these great butter cookies that are on the valrhona website with your egg yolks, or sabayon, or ice cream! (which you are doing)...

Avory said...

I find it *hillarious* that you make a cheaters version of pavlova! I always found pavlova to be my sort of easy fallback dessert, but then my apartment is air-conditioned and I'm sure that helps!

One thing that's fun if you want to do something a bit fancy, but not that difficult, is a little amateur food art with the fruit. Below are a Lord of the Rings pavlova I made this year (the scene is from Mount Doom if you're familiar with the books) and an upside down American flag Pavlova I made last 4th of July, despite being about the least patriotic American ever:

Mount Doom
4th of July