Monday, 17 June 2013

Pavlova, Oh My

I’m sure that every person who tastes that first mouthful of Pavlova always sighs the same sigh, Oh My.  Legend has it that this confection was first created as a tribute to Anna Pavlova, the famous Russian ballerina.  As my friend Pat said, “She musta been one good ballet dancer.”

Imagine a ballerina’s frilly and frothy tutu, charmed by a wizard, suddenly turned into a sweet, light, airy confection on your plate.  I’ve made it even more ethereal with the addition of a couple of magic ingredients.  Read on.

This dessert always causes a huge sensation, yet it’s fairly easy to pull off, provided you’re organized.

The Meringue
6 room temperature large egg whites
Pinch of salt
1 ½ cups vanilla sugar
1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons plain vinegar
1 ½ teaspoon high quality vanilla
¼ teaspoon orange blossom water
(this part is tweaked from a Simply Recipes site)

The Lemon Custard
4 tablespoons vanilla sugar
2 tablespoons corn starch or custard powder
1 ½ lemons
zest from 1 lemon
2 cups water (approximately)
¼ teaspoon orange blossom water
1 tablespoon Limoncello

The Topping
½ cup heavy cream (35%)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar
Fresh blackberries to garnish

For the meringues, start by moving your oven rack to the middle point, and preheat oven to 250 F.  Spread parchment paper over a cookie sheet.

Then, oh, so carefully separate the eggs.  One at a time,  crack the egg around with a knife, pry it apart, and use your spotlessly clean fingers to catch the yolk while the white slips through your fingers into the first small bowl.  Plop the yolk into a second small bowl.

Immediately pour that egg white into a clean large mixing bowl.  So much as a molecule of oil or yolk will wreck the meringue, so be cautious.  Be sure to immediately pour each white into the large mixing bowl, because if you let them collect in the first small bowl, and so much as a drop of yolk lands in multiple egg whites, you’ll regret the waste.  If you spoil a white with yolk, put it aside for now, and restart with a clean bowl and clean hands.  (Use the yolky egg white later in another dish.)

Once your eggs are separated, put some plastic wrap over the yolks and refrigerate.

Leave lots of room for custard.
At this point, mix the sugar and cornstarch in a medium size bowl, and then mix the vinegar, vanilla and orange blossom essence into a small bowl.  Set these near your mixing station.

Drop a pinch of salt into the whites, and turn on your scrupulously clean mixer to low speed.  Over the course of three minutes, gradually increase the speed to medium high.   With the mixer at medium high, drop a spoonful of the sugar mix into the whipping whites.  Continue till all the sugar is incorporated into the whites.  Turn the mixer up to top speed, and slowly pour in the vinegar solution.  Whip for another five minutes.

I created six meringue nests, but you can create more, as these were rather large.  You may also make one big meringue.  I plopped a goodly heaping of meringue at six even spots on the parchment lined cookie sheet, not worrying too much about size or shape.  Next time I'll make 8, as they grew in the oven and made massive desserts!

As I got down to the last of the whites, I started shaping each meringue, into a rustic round shape.  

The yellow lemon skin is fragrant and not bitter.
Finally I used the back of a large spoon to smooth out each centre, creating a depression for the custard sauce that is a much later step in this recipe.

Pop the meringues into the oven, and keep an eye on these babies.  Ideally, they shouldn’t tan or crack.  If they do, lower your oven temperature and turn the wrack around to distribute the oven heat differently.  I used a recipe that had me starting at 275 F, and cranking the heat down 25 degrees if tanning occurred.  It occurred.  Eventually I had to crank it down by 40 degrees, so I’m advising the lower temperature.  Cook for an hour, so the meringues feel crunchy.  A delicious Pavlova should be marshmellowy inside, but not crunchy through and through. 

After an hour, remove from the oven, and lift parchment paper and all onto cooling rack.  I made mine the night before, and once the oven was cooled again, I plunked the cooling rack and the meringues back into the oven to spend the night.

If you can find a lemon zester, use it!
To make the custard, begin by rolling your lemons over the countertop to loosen the juice.  If you have a zester, go after one lemon, removing just the yellow part of the skin.  Otherwise, use a potato peeler, and then dice the peel into thin strips.  Be sure to use only the yellow part of the skin!  Add the sugar and cornstarch (or custard powder) to a medium size sauce pan, then the lemon zest.

Squeeze the juice out of the whole and half lemon, measuring, and adding water to equal 2 ½ cups of liquid.  Pour into the saucepan, stir and bring to a boil.  Keep stirring to keep the starch from cooking at the bottom. 

Once the mix is starting to thicken, take it off the heat.  Grab that bowl of egg yolks, and whisk.  

Orange blossom water and Limoncello = :)
Drop a spoonful of the hot mix, whisking.  Drop in more hot mix, and whisk, and carry on till no more will fit in that small bowl.  The yolks will lighten, but they will also temper, meaning that the yolk mix can now be whisked into the remaining liquid in the saucepan.  Put it back on the heat, and continue whisking for five minutes or so, on a gentle boil.  It will thicken to a sauce.  Take it off the heat, stir in the orange blossom water and Limoncello.  Pour into a pretty pitcher. Cool and refrigerate.

For the topping, whip the cream, and when it’s almost done, add the vanilla and sugar.

Assemble the Pavlovas at the table, as they are a last minute confection.  If you pour the sauce into the meringue too early in the day, the meringue will get soggy and limp.  You don’t want that to happen to your pretty tutu!  Garnish with whipped cream and blackberries. 

Be prepared to moan and sigh.  Oh my, Pavlova, oh my.  I served these for Allison’s birthday party.  More recipes to follow!  

These grew in the oven, so next time I'll make 8 smaller ones!


  1. oh my...this is a treat..awesome recipe

  2. Thanks Sushmita. I'm making another version of it in a few minutes, this one a strawberry shortcake type for Canada Day. Thanks for dropping by the blog.