Sunday, June 27, 2010

Dancing in New Zealand with a Slice of Pavlova

The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany: Exceptional Cookies, Cakes, and Confections for Everyone by Francois Payard.

Pavlova is a meringue-based cake with a crispy crust and soft, light, marshmallow inner. The dessert is believed to have been created to honor ballet dancer Ánna Pávlova, and her world tour performances in Australia and New Zealand, in the 1920s.

Pavlova is traditionally decorated with a topping of whipped cream and fresh fruit, such as strawberries, kiwifruit, passionfruit, banana and/or berries, but this dessert welcomes creativity in its creation. In fact, The Pavlova Story: A Slice of New Zealand's Culinary History, by Helen Leach, is a compilation of 667 pavlova recipes from more than 300 sources!  This is what makes Pavlova the ultimate Daring Bakers' Challenge!  Like a mob of Kaimanawa wild horses, the Daring Bakers galloped away with reckless abandon!

While vacationing at Triple Creek Ranch, earlier this month (the horses above are really Triple Creek Ranch's herd), I was thrilled to see Berry Pavlova on the menu one evening. Knowing I would be making Pavlova for the Daring Bakers' Challenge when I returned home, I took a photo for inspiration.  Of course, the plating by Triple Creek's pastry chef was nothing less than stunning, with fresh berries, crème anglaise, raspberry sorbet, a tuille, and tiny puddles of mint syrup!

I did my research, and reviewed several Pavlova recipes, before choosing one by from Saveur, combining the best elements of versions by Robyn Hedges and Pip Hoar, two New Zealand bakers featured in Dave Lieberman's homage to the dessert, "Light Fantastic" (Saveur, August/September 2009).  Although the DB Challenge recipe sounded very decadent, I was persuaded to try the lighter, more traditional Pavlova.  I adapted Saveur's recipe slightly, by using passionfruit-orange flavored yogurt from Australia, rather than plain, and my own selection of fresh fruits.

Adapted from Saveur

Lemon Curd
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed, and chilled

1⁄4 cup cornstarch
1 tbsp. distilled white vinegar
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups sugar
8 egg whites, room-temperature

Whipped Topping
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
1⁄2 cup chilled passionfruit-orange yogurt

Garnish with assorted fruit of your choice, such as:
Kiwifruit, peeled and sliced
Mango, peeled and sliced

1. Make lemon curd: In a small saucepan over medium heat, whisk together 1⁄2 cup of the sugar, 1 egg, and the juice and zest of the lemon; cook, whisking constantly, until thickened, 8–10 minutes. Remove pan from heat and whisk in unsalted butter, letting each cube incorporate before adding the next. Strain curd through a fine sieve set over a small bowl; press plastic wrap against the surface of curd and refrigerate until well chilled.

2. Make meringue: Heat oven to 350°. In a small bowl, stir together cornstarch, vinegar, and vanilla extract; set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, beat remaining 2 1⁄2 cups of sugar and egg whites on low speed until combined. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until soft peaks form. Add cornstarch mixture to egg whites; continue beating until very stiff and glossy peaks form, about 5 more minutes.

3. Place a 9" round cake pan in the center of a 13" x 18" sheet of parchment paper and use a pencil to trace a circle around the outside of the pan. Flip the sheet of parchment paper and transfer it to a baking sheet so that the marked side is face down. Transfer meringue to the center of parchment paper.

4. Using a rubber spatula, shape it into a 9" disk by making the meringue conform to the circular outline; smooth top and sides with rubber spatula.

Transfer meringue to the oven and reduce oven temperature to 215°.  Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Turn off oven and let meringue sit until cooled, 3–4 hours. Gently peel parchment paper from the meringue and, using 2 metal spatulas, transfer meringue to a cake stand. (*The key to a successful pavlova is patience: allow the meringue to cool completely before transferring it to the plate or cake stand. You'll prevent any crumbling that can occur when the process is rushed).

**I learned step #4 the hard way; although I did let the meringue cool completely for 3 hours in the oven, without any peeking, it stuck pretty well to the silpat and I had a hard time transferring it to a plate.  However, underneath that hard shell is a beautiful marshmallowy center, and the cracks are covered by the layer of whipped cream.

Round Two... two smaller pavlovas so they are easier to move! I did leave these in the oven overnight to rest and then very gently used a rubber spatula to loosen and move them to my serving platters.

5. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, beat heavy cream and yogurt on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Pour the whipped cream mixture onto the cooled meringue and spread evenly over meringue's top using a rubber spatula.

6. Decorate the top of the pavlova with fresh fruit. Remove the reserved lemon curd from the refrigerator and stir vigorously; drizzle the curd over the pavlova, reserving a few tablespoons for individual servings. Cut the pavlova into slices and serve immediately with lemon curd.

I tried a slight variation of the Daring Bakers' Chocolate Pavlova, by halving the above recipe and adding 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder to the meringue ingredients. I used a pastry bag with a large round tip and piped out eight Mini Chocolate Pavlovas.  I topped these with whipped cream and brandied cherries.

The Daring Bakers' Chocolate Meringue with Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse, and Mascarpone Cream recipe can be found here.

My next post will feature our Concert in the Park Culinary Challenge of the week, New Zealand cuisine, inspired by this month's Daring Bakers' Challenge, where my Pavlovas made their debut, alongside a gourmet picnic of New Zealand lamb, Meat Pies, Green Lip Mussels, Scallops, bread, muffins, and Kiwi-inspired salads and relishes.

Concert in the Park Piss-Up, a New Zealand Food & Wine Extravagna post is up!



Audax said...

WOWOWOWOW all the different versions look astounding you really went to town on this challenge. I was waiting for you posting to appear. Your photography is professional. Bravo on this challenge. Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

Laura said...

Beautiful! Love the idea of brandied cherries with the chocolate meringue.

Jen said...

Wow! The chocolate pavs with cherries look sooooo good! Great job with the challenge.

Carmen said...

Denise - Jim and I both agree that your pavlova is our new favorite dessert! They were as tasty as they appear in the photos ... light, cool, effervescent dessert!

Lisa said...

Denise, your pavlovas are just gorgeous and I love the way you 'spiked' up the traditional ones with the mango-passion fruit yogurt. I also went the passion fruit route with a passion fruit curd that is out of this world. Beautifully done as always and great photos!

jamie said...

These look amazing! I'm doing a pavlova for my final practical in gsce cooking, and i really wish i found this blog earlier because i could of nicked a few idea's great idea's from here haha. Shame i'm doing it on monday