Chef Time!

Chef Time!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

This Dessert Is Simplicity At Its Best!

A Pavlova is basically a meringue-based dessert with a delicate, crisp crust and a sweet, almost marshmallow-like center. Typically a Pavlova is served with whipped cream and fresh fruit; here, the recipe called for peaches with a fresh raspberry sauce. The dessert is simplicity at its best. You start by whipping egg whites, slowly add superfine sugar and beat until stiff peaks form and finally, fold in just a bit of cornstarch, white vinegar and vanilla extract.  Then the pavlova is baked at a fairly low temperature (250 here) for over an hour before turning off the oven and letting the pavlova cool completely in there.

Pavlova Peach Melba

I almost didn't bake this one because I wasn't sure it would be eaten, but I scaled back and made a tiny version as I so often do. I baked ¼ of the recipe, which means I used only 1 egg white to make this entire dessert, along with just ¼ cup of sugar and less than a teaspoon each of the cornstarch, vinegar and vanilla.  It's pretty amazing to me what an elegant desert can be created with so few ingredients! Also, relative to most of the desserts I make, this one is fairly healthy. I wish I'd been able to find better fruit at the store, but since I couldn't I use both frozen peaches and raspberries and both worked well here. Frozen peaches were actually a great find. They held their shape very well when defrosted, and it saved me the hassle of having to peel and cut up peaches. I skipped the whipped cream (even though I absolutely love the stuff) just because I was already making this at the last minute and it was an extra step. The baking time for my mini was only about 10 minutes less than the full size dessert and I used my largest cookie cutter (about 3 ½ inches in diameter) to draw the circle that acted as the guide for my pavlova.
Even without the whipped cream, I really enjoyed this dessert! The contrast between the crisp exterior and the soft marshmallowy interior was wonderful and the combination of peaches and raspberries was a successful one.

Pavlova Peach Melba
For the Meringue
4 large egg whites
1 c. superfine sugar
1 ½ tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. white vinegar
¼ tsp. Vanilla
For the Melba
2 to 3 large peaches
1 pint fresh raspberries
1 recipe raspberry sauce, see notes
For the Whipped Cream
1 c. heavy cream, very cold
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. sugar
Before you start:
Position a rack in the center of your oven. Preheat the oven to 250. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Draw a 7″ circle on the paper with a pen. Flip over the paper. You will be able to see the line.
To make the meringue:
In a clean, grease-free bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment, beat the egg whites on medium-high heat until they hold firm peaks, about 1 minute. Start adding the sugar, little by little, until the meringue holds very stiff glossy peaks, about 2 minutes. You should not feel any sugar grains at this point. If you do, keep beating.
Remove the bowl from the mixer. Sift the cornstarch over the meringue, and sprinkle the vanilla and vinegar on top. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the ingredients into the meringue until just fully incorporated (the goal is to do so without deflating the meringue.)
Gently mound the meringue in the center of the circle on the prepared parchment paper, and smooth the edges. Bake for 1 hour and 25 minutes. Turn off the oven, and allow the meringue to cool completely in the oven for an additional hour or more. The meringue may crack as it cools – this is normal. When cool, carefully peel the paper from the bottom of the meringue and place the meringue on a serving platter. The meringue can be made only on the day of serving.
To prepare the fruit:
Peel, pit, and slices the peaches into a large bowl. Place the raspberries on top of the peaches. Pour over ½ cup of the raspberry sauce. Using a rubber spatula, gently combine.
To make the whipped cream:
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whipping attachment, beat the heavy cream and vanilla on medium speed. In a slow, steady stream, add the sugar beating until the mixture forms medium-stiff peaks.
To Complete the Pavlova:
Mound the whipped cream in the center of the meringue and spread it just up to the edges.
Pile the fruit and any sauce left in the bottom of the bowl on top of the cream.
Drizzle a little of the remaining sauce over the fruit, and serve the rest of the sauce on the side. Using a large spoon, serve immediately.
To make raspberry sauce: combine two 12 ounce packages of frozen raspberries, ¾ plus 2 tablespoons sugar, and 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer for 2 minutes. Let cool and strain through a fine mesh sieve. Chill for up to 5 days.

I hope you will try this recipe.

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