Monday, March 22, 2010

Pavlova

Last fall I went to Australia for the first time. Everyone I knew was in love with the place and had either been several times, or it had been their life long dream to go. It was never that way with me. I had always wanted to see New Zealand but never had a huge desire to see Australia. I thought it was one giant hot desert, which did not appeal to me. But then my cousin met a wonderful Australian girl and decided to move there and then eventually decided to get hitched. So the wedding was my excuse to travel the world and check out a new place.

I only got to see a small part of Australia as our trip was only about 2 weeks long, but I fell in love with what I did see. My Mom and I traveled to Adelaide and Kangaroo Island and were blown away. Kangaroo Island blew me away with the scenery and nature, while Adelaide blew me away with how much more progressive they were towards gluten free food and Celiacs!

They had similar stores to our Subways that had special gluten free wraps and they would use separate everything to make the wraps so that I could eat safely. Every coffee shop had at least one type of gluten free cookie right at the till and everyone knew what I was talking about when I brought it up. So much more aware of it than even here in Canada. I was blown away.

I still remember the day that I walked into a coffee shop and my jaw dropped when three of the six beautifully decorated cakes were actually gluten free. Instead of opting for the more traditional gluten free cakes, I chose a layered pavlova cake. I had seen them a few times, more in Australia since they and New Zealand claim that their countries developed it, and thought I should try it out. I did not regret that choice one bit. It was light, airy, creamy and sweet all at the same time.

My Mom's birthday is coming up and she wanted me to make her a cake. It's only fair being that she has made my birthday cake every year of my life. I asked her what she wanted and she said it was up to me ... so I chose to make Pavlova. I had never made it before but couldn't get that wonderful memory of Australia out of my head so I thought I would give it a shot and had a back up plan just in case. Luckily for me, I didn't need the back up plan as it turned out fantastically!

Now the Pavlova that I had eaten the first time was layered and I found a bunch of recipes that just make one giant cake, but I opted to make smaller individual ones. The process was the same, just the 'batter' was split up and it was a lot easier than I expected. You should try it for yourself!


Pavlova
-makes 8-10 individual cakes or one large cake

Meringue:
1 cup of Egg Whites (about 6 large eggs, but it's a lot easier to by the whites in cartons)
1 1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/2 teaspoon Cream of Tartar
1 1/2 tablespoon of Cornstarch
1 1/2 cups of Berry Sugar

Topping:
500ml Whipping Cream
1/2 + 1/4 cup of Sugar
Zest of one Lemon
2 pints of fresh or frozen fruit

First preheat your oven to 250 degrees F and line a cooking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

Making the Meringue is fairly simple, it just requires endless mixing ... which is a breeze if you have a kitchen aid mixer and you can just walk away from it! Start by mixing the corn starch, cream of tartar and vanilla in a small bowl. This should just add colour to the dry ingredients, then add sugar. Next place the egg whites into a bowl and mix at medium speed until the eggs become frothy throughout. Then slowly start sifting in your sugar mixture about a tablespoon at a time and increase the speed to high. Beat the egg whites until they are glossy white and form stiff peaks. The ultimate test is to turn the bowl upside down. If the meringue stays in the bowl you are good to go!

Spoon the meringues onto the parchment paper shaping to your desire and creating little indentations in the top. Place in the oven and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Check on it a few times during the baking to ensure that it isn't browning. If the colour starts to change, rotate the pan and drop the temperature by 25 degrees F. Now here's the trick, once the meringue is baked, turn the temperature off and leave it in the oven until completely cooled. This process helps prevent cracking and will keep the meringue crisp on the outside and soft and marshmallowy on the inside. Once completely cooled you can remove from the parchment and plate. Just add your whipping cream, which is the cream and 1/2 cup of sugar beaten until fully whipped with lemon zest folded in. Then top that with a mixture of fruit and 1/4 cup of sugar that was allowed to sit in a bowl for a while to help develop a slight syrup. The lemon zest in the whipping cream really helps counter act all the sugar and freshens it up a bit.

I was really pleased with how easy this was and how well it turned out. It is a light dessert that goes well with heavier meals, like Easter dinner coming up. I hope you enjoy and Happy Birthday Mom!

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