For some reason, I decided to start making pavlovas last summer. I think it's because they appear so frequently in the cookbooks and blogs I read, and I was curious about them. Also I'd finally located a place to pick berries, so I had tons of them all summer. They're pretty simple affairs: meringue shell, whipped cream, fruit--and yet I've never seen them here in the States. What gives?
Well, probably what gives is why on earth would anyone choose to eat a meringue? They are basically lumps of sugar, without any of the delicious squicky butteriness of a real cookie. However, as I discovered during my pavlova-making period this summer, slap some lightly-sweetened whipped cream and good fruit on that bad boy and you've got yourself a darn-near-perfect dessert/snack/lunch/whatever. I AM OBSESSED.
I haven't done a cookalong in a long while--part of the reason this blog has been so tumbleweedy of late. I haven't seen one that really caught my fancy and I don't really have the time (or the kitchen) that I did when I was doing the original Tuesdays with Dorie. I'd noticed that there was a monthly cookalong at Nigella.com, but never really paid attention to it till I saw this month's choice was Mini Pavlovas. I AM THERE.
(more after the jump!)
During my experiments this summer, one of the recipes I tried was these Mini Pavlovas from How To Be A Domestic Goddess. I futzed with the directions quite a bit, though, because I'd started my adventure with a recipe from Bon Appetit that I liked the consistency of pretty well. TO stay true to the cookalong, however, this time I made the recipe as written. Well, mostly, anyway.
The last time I made the recipe, I tried cutting it in half, and stil ended up with a lot of little pavs that were bigger than I intended. This time, though, I was adamant. I only made 1/4 of the recipe. I used the top of a Nutella jar to draw my boundaries for each--I figured that was a good size.
I didn't have any cornstarch (don't ask me how I'm out of that!) so I substituted all-purpose flour in a 2:1 ratio. I also keep forgetting to get white wine vinegar for this recipe, so after a good bit of dithering I just used regular vinegar. Finally, I had a sudden hankering to flavor the meringues with rosewater, but I didn't want to dig it out of the cabinet. So I used my less-favored orange-blossom water, which though not as swoon-inducing is in a huge obnoxious bottle that is easier to find in the cabinet.
After I'd whipped the egg whites and sugar (used regular sugar as I'm out of superfine) I thought the mixture looked a little softer than I expected, so I tried to mix in the flour and vinegar and flavoring quickly and gently, so as not to break up the whites. Then I scooped them onto parchment and shaped.
This all went fine. I usually use the Bon Appetit instructions for baking, but I decided to try Nigella's this time: preheating to 350, baking at 300 for a while, then turning it off and leaving them in the hot-but-cooling oven a while before taking them out.
I'm not convinced of that technique:
They weren't ruined, but they browned and flattened, and they are quite crispy. Now, mind, I don't actually know what a proper pav should be like, but I think of them as a little more marshmallowy.
But with that done, it was time to think of topping. With the sugariness of the meringue and the lushness of the whipped cream, I really think you want some juicy, astringent fruit to go on them to cut some of that. Berries are wonderful but very suspect in January. What I did have, however, were some clementines. Even those are not foolproof, so I decided to poach them first.
I improvised a simple syrup with sugar, water, cinnamon sticks, cardamom, vanilla, and the rosewater I finally dug out, and simmered the segments from 3 clementines in it for a little while.
Then I let them cool while I made a tiny bit of whipped cream:
and then topped the shell with the cream and some of the clementines. It looked like something was missing, so I added almonds. Almonds make anything better.