Friday, July 8, 2011

Pavlova - an even lighter side, not traditional

So, Pavlova is a dish that is just summer to me.  It's just one of those things that living in South Africa became a tradition. It's hot, you are having a braai (BBQ), you have a pavlova for dessert.  Traditionally made, I think it is light already, but I tried to make it even lighter in sweetness and lighter in calories, though I know, if you are eating dessert, calories really shouldn't be a factor.  The nice thing is that with these alterations I actually like the taste better.  I suppose there are traditionalists that will scoff at my fenagleling but to each their own!

Really, this is the sort of thing you make to YOUR tastes.  I use the berries, but honestly, anything goes fruit wise.  Use what you like, as much as you like, when you like it!

Meringue, ah meringue.  Seriously, I struggle with this, I have over beaten the egg whites before so now I sometimes don't beat them enough for fear of a repeat.  Or I throw caution to the wind and over beat again.  Well sometimes I do get it right, but really, those other times, no one complained about the taste, and frankly, you have it topped so go with the flow.

Here are some tips I have found along the way.
Use room temperature eggs.  No really!  It's just easier I promise, let them sit outside the fridge and settle.
Use vinegar.  This just adds a bit of acid to help protect you from over beating, ok not YOU, the egg whites.

Preheat the oven to 250F/120C
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  I spray the sheet with baking spray, then lay the parchment paper on it, then lightly spray the parchment paper.

Meringue -
4 egg whites (room temperature)
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
2/3 cup of granulated sugar (super fine)
4 teaspoons of cornstarch (aka cornflour, the stuff you use to thicken sauces, not make tortillas)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Whisk the eggs and vinegar until they are fluffy and light. (if you can use a copper bowl this is best, but anything other than plastic will work)
Add in the sugar slowly.  I like to measure out the amount and put it in a small bowl, then using a spoon to add it to the mix, this way I am not tempted to just dump and lose air.
Whisk for a bit more, then add vanilla, also slowly.
Finally when the whites are stiff add the cornstarch, again, you guessed it, slowly.
HERE is where you need to make sure you do not over beat though, so take care!

Now traditionally here it is said to pipe the meringue onto to a cookie sheet...I find this tedious and frankly unnecessary. (not to mention more dishes!)  I LOVE the way it looks all swooped and swirled.  I use a spatula to remove the egg whites and make a circle on the parchment paper lining the baking sheet. I then add more to the middle to fill it all in, and finish with a ring around the outside just a bit higher than the middle.  All rough and curly.  Enjoy this part, it is fun, and personally I don't think it should look like stars or shells or whatever!

Bake for 45 minutes or until it just starts to get a bronze glow.
Turn off the oven and leave the meringue in for another hour or so, till the outside forms a crust.  If you want, you can leave it there overnight.  I have taken it out before the hour was up and I was in a hurry to get to where I was going.  However, it was summer in Texas so I left it in the car, just as hot if not hotter than my oven!  It turned out great.

I use about 1 Cup of heavy whipping cream and 2 Tablespoons of sugar.  I whip this to stiff peaks and then add 1 Cup nonfat plain yogurt.  Again here, do what tastes right for you.  I like the tang of the yogurt to cut some of the sweetness, but it is all about you!

Artistically throw this in the middle of your meringue and use a spatula to form curls and swoops.
Here is where you add the fruit that you want.  Add it until it looks right to you.
Eat it immediately!  The cream/yogurt mix makes the meringue go gooey before too long, and THAT is not nice!
Enjoy!  I taste summer in every bite!