from Bangkok with love: pavlova with tropical fruit

My last recipe post was over two weeks ago!

That’s because I was packing, cleaning out the refrigerator in the Teeny Tiny Apartment, flying to Bangkok,  and getting over jet lag. Now that I’m recovered, I’m baking again. I’ve always wanted to try making this pavlova with tropical fruit. It’s superb with raspberries but divine with mango, kiwi, and passion fruit.

Make sure you have this mis en place:

4 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup superfine/caster sugar
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons superfine/caster sugar
1 mango diced
1 kiwi sliced and quartered
2 passion fruit, seeds and pulp only

Preheat the oven 250˚F. Prepare a baking tray with a 6-8 inch circle drawn in the center of a sheet of parchment. I ran out of parchment so I used a silicone liner. It worked!

In Bangkok, it is “winter”–meaning it is cool and not as humid–perfect weather to make the meringue. To make the meringue, separate 4 eggs while cold. Allow the whites to come to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Whip the whites until foamy, about 2-3 minutes. Add 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar and continue beating until blended. Add one cup of superfine/caster sugar one tablespoon at a time until blended. Continue whipping until the whites turn smooth and satiny. When you lift the beaters, the peaks should be stiff, the tips just curling over.

Scrape the meringue into the center of the circle. I didn’t want to draw on the silicone liner so I just guessed  the circle’s diameter would be  8 inches. Mound the meringue leaving a slight well in the center. Bake 60-75 minutes. Then turn off the oven and let the meringue dry out, about 2-3 hours. I was in a rush so I took it out after 1 hour before it had thoroughly cooled. As a result, the meringue crust was slightly chewy rather than crisp.

Beat the whipping cream with two tablespoons sugar. Spread the cream in the center of the meringue. If the shell cracks and breaks, don’t worry. In a bowl, gently toss the mango and kiwi together. Pour on top of the whipped cream. Sprinkle the passion fruit on top. Serve with a spoon!

Cake Baker’s Note: Choose wrinkled passion fruit as they will be the ripest. To cut open a passion fruit make the first cut at one of the poles. Don’t try to slice through the whole fruit but slice through the rind one hemisphere at a time. Scoop out the seeds and the pulp. Discard the “shells.”

pavlova: perfect, but not quite

It frustrates me that a meringue is not as simple as its recipe. There are just three ingredients: egg whites, cream of tartar, and sugar, but getting the proper height is the challenge. I have my theories.  The first time I tried this (Nigella’s Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova) I thought the lack of height was due to the fact I’d used packaged egg whites. Now although I am using fresh egg whites they are not rising high enough so now I think I didn’t whip them long enough to get them truly stiff.

I  heated the oven to 250˚F then I made the meringue. First I prepared a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Using an 8″ cake pan bottom as a template, I traced a circle in the middle of the paper with a black marker and turned it upside down on the tray. Then I set it aside for later.  I got together the ingredients for the meringue:

4 egg whites, separated when cold then brought to room temperature (about 30 minutes)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup superfine (caster) sugar

Cake Baker’s Note: The bowl and beaters must be absolutely free of grease and there must be no yolk in the egg whites or they will not whip up.

I whipped the egg whites on medium speed until foamy. On high speed, I  added the cream of tartar and whipped the mixture until soft peaks formed. This means when I raised the beaters, the peaks flopped over. I continued whipping while adding the sugar one tablespoon at a time, until the egg whites became satiny smooth and glossy, forming stiff peaks. I was afraid to overbeat them so I stopped after a few minutes. I remember reading somewhere to beat egg whites for a meringue for at least 10 minutes. I will have to try that another time.

I scraped the meringue into a mound in the center of the circle, making the edges slightly higher than the center. Then I put it in the oven between 60 and 75 minutes (an hour and 10 minutes for me) until it formed a hardened shell that was pale cream in color. I turned off the heat and let the meringue cool in the oven with the door closed for at least 2 hours. Then I carefully removed the paper and let it finish cooling on a wire rack while I prepared  the topping:

1 half-pint heavy cream
2 tablespoons superfine sugar (optional)
1 pint raspberries (or any kind of berries, kiwi fruit, mangoes, passion fruit–whatever inspires you!)

I made the meringue according to the very helpful directions (with pictures) on How to Make Meringue. This meringue inside was intensely sweet and puffy like a marshmallow, the outside was wafer-brittle and crisp.  The “marshmallow” had height this time but there was  yet still a dome of air above it enclosed by a crisp thin shell. So when I put the whipped cream on top, the delicate shell shattered and wafer-thin shards fell on top of the marshmallow beneath. We scooped it up anyway and ate it with raspberries, crackling and all. It was delicious. Such contrast of taste and texture: intensely sweet marshmallow-y meringue, crisp wafer shell, with the light taste of cream and the tang of raspberry.

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strawberry pavlova

Today is John’s birthday. I thought I would make him a white cake, his favorite, and a pavlova, as I discovered this summer, is really easy to make. A pavlova consists of a baked meringue disk topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit. This recipe was originally from which I adapted. I also used strawberries instead of kiwi.

4 egg whites
1 1/4 cups white superfine (caster) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon juice or white vinegar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 pint heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar, optional
1 pint strawberries, hulled and sliced (6 kiwis, peeled and sliced, in original recipe)

1. Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Draw a 9 inch circle on the parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add in the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat until thick and glossy. Over-beaten egg whites lose volume and deflate when folded into other ingredients. Be absolutely sure not a particle of grease or egg yolk gets into the whites. Beat in the vanilla extract. Gently fold in the lemon juice and cornstarch.

3. Spoon mixture inside the circle drawn on the parchment paper. Working from the center, spread mixture toward the outside edge, building edge slightly. This should leave a slight depression in the center.

4. Bake for 1 hour. Cracks will form in the meringue. Cool in the oven with the door slightly ajar. Transfer to a wire rack. The meringue disk can be made a day ahead, cooled, then wrapped airtight in plastic.

5. In a medium bowl beat heavy cream on high speed. Sweeten, if desired, with two tablespoons sugar. Continue beating until stiff peaks form. Set aside. Carefully remove the paper from the cooled meringue disk, and place meringue on a flat serving plate. Using a large pancake turner will help as the meringue is fragile. Fill the center of the meringue with whipped cream. Top whipped cream with strawberries slices. Chill until ready to serve.