“THERE WAS A STAR RIDING THROUGH CLOUDS ONE NIGHT AND I SAID TO THE STAR, ‘CONSUME ME’.” Virginia Woolf
I’ve been been wondering what the fascination is with pavlovas. While I’ve only had store bought meringues before, I have found them to be hard and crunchy, and not really in a good way! So this recipe only affirms my belief that when you take the opportunity to make something from scratch, the result is so much better! The fascination with pavlovas? They are sweet, crunchy, chewy clouds on which you can float the most delectable fruits and creams! They may be elegant or rustic, and topped with fruits from any season. Nervous about making meringues? So was I! But let me tell you about one of my favorite Cooking Channel shows, and who convinced me to give this a try……
I have a love/hate thing with the Food Network and the Cooking Channel. It seems that just as you find a show that you love…..only 4 episodes are aired and the reruns begin! What’s up with this? There are so many fresh, new faces that have so much to offer. (Can you imagine a show that features a DIFFERENT blogger every episode? The networks would NEVER run out of new material!) But I feel stuck seeing the same icons using their same 3 or 4 favorite ingredients! And even these shows are being rerunned to death! I no longer want to see someone standing behind a kitchen counter talking into a camera, manipulating ingredients while saying ‘and then’, ‘and next’, and ‘just like that’. And for crying out loud, you’ve made the recipe before….so tell me what’s so good about it before you shove it in your mouth and begin to talk!!!
Really….I do love these cooking shows. But Lorraine Pascale is so different and refreshing to me. And the setting for her show, Simply Baking, seems more real and intimate and kind of…..serene. And when she tells me that some things about baking may seem difficult to do….“but you can!”……I believe her! And so it is that I tried her ‘foolproof’ recipe for meringue, altering her spiced fruit pavlova just slightly to include only pears and blackberries. If I made this…..
…..you can, too!!! Here’s what Lorraine tells us to do:
LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY: Easy (and foolproof!)
YIELDS: 6-8 Servings
FOR THE FRUIT:
- 6 pears, peeled, cored and sliced
- 2 star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick, snapped in half
- a couple of twists of freshly cracked black pepper
- 13 oz of marsala (I used port)
- 1 orange, juice and zest
- 4 Tablespoons of soft, granulated light brown sugar
- 1 vanilla bean, seeds and pod
- 2 large handfuls of blackberries
Put all of these ingredients except the blackberries into a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes until the fruit is soft. Remove the pan from the heat, add the blackberries and allow the mixture to cool in the pan. When ready to use, remove the anise pods, cinnamon stick and vanilla bean, strain through a sieve.
AND THIS I LOVE….Lorraine suggests reserving the poaching liquid to be warmed at a later date as a hot toddy! (It’s delicious, like a spiced wine!) Look at this beautiful fruit……..
FOR THE MERINGUE:
- 8 1/4 oz caster sugar
- a squeeze of lemon juice
- 4 large egg whites at room temperature
Adjust your oven rack to the lowest position in the oven. Preheat your oven to 170°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. I used a cake pan to trace a circle on one side of the parchment and then turned the paper over so that my guidelines would still show.
Put the sugar and lemon juice into a mixing bowl. Add one egg white and mix for a minute. Don’t worry that the mix looks hard. Add another egg white and mix for another few minutes. And then add the remaining egg whites and mix for another 5 minutes until the whites look stiff and shiny. Dollop the meringue into the circle on your parchment paper making the sides slightly higher than the center. Bake in the bottom oven for 1 1/2 hours. The meringue may turn light pale, but should be hard and crispy on the outside and soft and pillowy on the inside. Once it’s cooked, turn the oven off, leave the door ajar, and allow it to cool inside the oven.
FOR THE WHIPPED CREAM:
- 12 oz whipping cream
- 1 heaping Tablespoon of confectioners sugar
- 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
Whip all ingredients until soft peaks form.
Gently place your meringue on a serving dish or cake plate. Spoon the whipped cream into the middle of the meringue and top with poached fruit.
This was the first time I’ve made a pavlova. But it’s not the first time I made a meringue! I made this very meringue recipe several weeks ago and it came out just as beautifully the first time. I, however, proceeded to knock the plate holding the meringue off the counter and onto my kitchen floor! And while this was extreme, I will tell you to handle the meringue carefully because it is fragile and it actually may show a crack or two out of the oven. Fortunately, your toppings will probably hide this!
And now, I give you my fridge cam! This spiced pear and blackberry pavlova was so unbelievably good and pretty, that I had to sneak another peek before I went to bed. Okay…so I feel a little bit like Nigella Lawson. I nibbled on it as well!
This really is so easy, and delicious and special. I hope you will try it….and ENJOY!
Recipe slightly adapted from Lorraine Pascale/Simply Baking