30 January 2014

Nigella Cookalong, January 2014: Mini Pavlovas

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.

It was pretty good!  I would like to work on figuring out a better baking method from the shell--and I think I do prefer fresh berries to the poached clementines (I am STILL working on my aversion to cooked fruit) but I think they are perfectly fine and it's a nice reminder that summer will eventually be on the way. 


Lori said...

That looks sensational! How did you enjoy the Tuesdays with Dorie? I have her cookbook but have not yet tried even one recipe!

miss kate said...

Hi Lori! I loved doing TWD. I'd had the cookbook for a good while before I joined up, and it gave me the motivation to try a bunch of recipes I might not have otherwise. I noticed they've started up with another book, and I'm considering rejoining now...


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