Happy 2013! I hope the holiday season was good to you, with plenty of time spent with loved ones. Our time was happily filled with a visit to see family and friends, a lovely wedding, many games of Banagrams, many episodes of Boardwalk Empire, sledding, cooking from Burma, reading and eating peppermint bark and popcorn. And, of course, the return of Downton Abbey last night.
Over the winter break, I reminisced about our trip to Australia during the same time last year, and this lead to thoughts of Pavlova, which is very popular during the Christmas season there (large meringues are readily available in the grocery stores). I’ve shared my love of cream and meringue desserts before, and Pavlova is another such creation - an old favorite for a new year.
Egg whites are whipped with sugar until they are snowy white and then mounded with softly muffled glumpf sounds onto a baking pan and swirled into a round. When baked, I’ve noticed that sometimes the meringue stays white and sometimes it becomes golden, which reminds me of a nicely toasted marshmallow - not a bad thing! Billows of whipped cream are then spread over the meringue and topped with fruit.
Passion fruit is traditional (we ate the best passion fruit ever in Australia), but I chose to use some beautiful pomegranates which are in season now. Pomegranate arils are so pretty, like little jewels, and their ruby color is striking against the white cream, their crimson juice staining it pink. They burst with tart flavor as you take a bite of this light, airy confection. The soft crunch of meringue melts in your mouth. This is one magical dessert.
Pavlova is stunning, perfect for a holiday celebration or an elegant dinner party. Or, in our case, a family dinner where we blissfully devoured the whole thing, winter break stretching luxuriously ahead of us.
Now we have a shiny new year ahead filled with new possibilities. I am looking forward to a delicious, creative 2013 with lots of joy, both in and out of the kitchen. Wishing you the same, as well!
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla, divided
6 egg whites, room temperature
A pinch of kosher salt
1 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
1 pint heavy whipping cream, chilled
1 cup pomegranate arils
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Draw a 9 inch circle on a piece of parchment paper and place it on a baking sheet.
In a glass measuring cup, stir together the cornstarch, white vinegar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Set aside. Using an electric mixer or stand mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on high speed with a pinch of kosher salt until soft peaks begin to form. Lower the speed a little and slowly add 1 cup of sugar. Pour in the cornstarch mixture. Whisk until well mixed. The egg whites should be smooth and billowy, be sure not to over mix them.
Gently spoon the egg whites onto the baking sheet and smooth to fill the circle. Place the baking sheet in the oven and lower the heat to 300 degrees. Bake for 1 hour, then decrease the heat to 180 degrees for 1/2 hour. The meringue should be puffed and lightly golden. Turn the heat off and leave the meringue to cool in the oven with the door closed. It can be prepared the night before and left in the closed oven until the next day.
When ready to serve, whip the chilled heavy cream until soft peaks form. Add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and 1 tablespoon of sugar and beat until mixed.
Peel the parchment paper off the meringue and place on a flat serving plate. Dollop the whipped cream over the top and smooth. Scatter the pomegranate arils and any collected juices over the cream. Bring to the table and serve in slices.