January is my year's sweet spot. You are filled with optimism for the year ahead, with hope that your plans will work out and more importantly, you haven't yet started despairing as to how the days and weeks just seem to fly by. Unless you live in northern India, the weather is just about right at this time of the year. In complete antithesis to snowed-out Europe, we have blue skies, pleasant days, gentle sunshine, flowers in the gardens and the best part, strawberries in the markets!!
I think I wait all year for January, just for the strawberries that this month brings. I spend the excruciatingly hot Indian summer in envy, as blog after blog in the Western hemisphere goes crazy about their love affair with the summer berries. I make a mental note of all that I want to make with these beautiful red berries and then bide my time patiently till they make their grand entry into our markets.
Ever since I've heard about the Pavlova, I've been wanting to make it. I've never eaten it nor ever made it before. All I know is that the Australians are crazy about this meringue dessert that has a crisp shell with a soft, light, marshmallowy inside. It is served with a layer of cream and fresh fruit. With the weather being just right to work with meringue and cream, I reckoned it would also be a perfect choice to showcase the strawberries of the season.
For the recipe of this Aussie favourite, I turned to another Aussie favourite, Donna Hay. You already know what a Masterchef Australia junkie I am and this is where I first saw Donna Hay unveil a pavlova and it's been on my 'to-make' list forever!!
Preparation for the pavlova hardly takes much time. Just be precise with your measurements, whisk your egg whites to their desired stiff-peak form and don't let even a tiny speck of moisture come anywhere near the mixture and you are good to go. The baking time is on the longer side and then there is the subsequent cooling time. But, trust me, your patience will be well rewarded!
The pavlova was a dessert created in honour of the Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova, during her tour of Australia and New Zealand in the 1920s. Make this dessert and you will understand where this dessert gets its inspiration from. Much like a ballerina, at first glance, this dessert looks feminine, graceful, simple, dainty and pretty. And just as the grace of her movements and the lightness of her step are in sharp contrast to a ballerina's tremendous muscular strength, the light, delicate marshmallow filling of this pavlova also contrasts with its crisp, surprisingly resilient outer shell. The inside filling is so light that it just seems to vanish, leaving you with the fresh fruit and a slightly chewy bits of the shell. It is not cloyingly sweet nor too heavy on the palate.
Strawberries and cream are a 'never-fail' combination and with this pavlova, it creates an elegant, complete dessert. This dessert is so beautifully light and fresh and that makes it ideal as a dessert for a meal that has been on the richer side.
Make the pavlova and you will understand why the Australians are crazy about it.This is such a fun, light and elegant dessert and declared an outright winner by all at home. I just wonder why it took me so long to discover it!!
A year ago: Strawberry Galettes
A year ago: Strawberry Galettes
- 75 ml egg white (approximately 2-3 eggs)
- 1/2 cup (110 gms) caster (superfine) sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch (sifted)
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar
- 1/2 cup single cream (pouring consistency)
- 150 gms strawberries (hulled and halved)
- Pre-heat oven to 150 deg C.
- Place the egg white in the clean bowl. There should be absolutely NO trace of water or any kind of moisture in the bowl.
- Whisk until stiff peaks form. I did the 'ten-second test' where you hold the bowl upside-down over your head and if the egg-whites stay put, you are good to go.
- Gradually add the sugar, whisking well, until the mixture is stiff and glossy.
- Add the cornflour and white vinegar and whisk until just combined.
- Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper. Trace out a circle of 15 cm radius on the paper. Shape the egg white mixture into a round circle on to the traced-out circle.
- Reduce the oven to 120 deg C and bake for 1 hour 20 minutes.
- Turn the oven off and allow the pavlova to cool completely in the oven.
- Whisk the cream with one tablespoon of icing sugar until soft peaks form.
- If your strawberries are tart, combine two tablespoons of sugar with the strawberries and leave them to rest for ten minutes or until the sugar has dissolved.
- Spread the cream over the pavlova layer and then top with the strawberries.
- You can then drizzle some melted chocolate and decorate with some basil/mint leaves or even some edible flowers.
- Serve immediately.
- Tips from Donna Hay: The low heat puffs up the meringue while the long cooking time dries it out to give you a lovely crisp shell. You can store your pavlova, undressed, in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.