Thursday, February 2, 2012

Recipe: Brown Sugar Pavlova

Image from epicurious.com

I hope everyone had a fantastic Australia day. I spent mine with loved ones and good friends relaxing and enjoying the few hours of sunshine that the weather allowed by the pool.

Two years ago some friends hosted a very wild and memorable Australia Day party at their share house. I brought with me a rather delicate brown sugar and berry pavlova which, on the day, was consumed by about 20 very hungry partiers armed with spoons in about 2 mins flat. So, this year for our little celebration I decided to once again make my brown sugar pavlova. Unfortunately, I don't have a picture from either occasion as each time it is demolished before I could find my camera.

The three tiered shape of this pavlova is slightly non-traditional as is the addition of brown sugar. However, after having too many bad run-ins with "magic egg" made or supermarket bought pavlovas the caramel undertones which the brown sugar provides is a welcome change from its sacrine sweet super and powdery predecessors. The tiered effect, which I think looks rather impressive, also amplifies the textual difference between the crisp outer shell and marshmallowy inside of the meringue mixed with the fluffy cream and fruit.

So to make this festive treat you will need:

Utensils
- 2 or 3 cake pans of the same diameter, I have found that sponge tins work really well for this
- An electric mixer of some kind. I use my kitchenaid stand mixer with the whisk attachment, but a hand held mixer should also do the trick
- A food processor, this is optional, if you don't have one or can't be bothered to wash it up after using it then a large bowl and a whisk will also suffice

Ingredients
- 2 tablespoons of icing sugar (for dusting)
- 1 cup caster sugar
- 1/2cup brown sugar, make sure you pack it in tight when you are measuring it
- 1 1/2 tablespoon cornflour
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar, this is optional
- 1 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla essence
- 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar diluted with 1 teaspoon of water
- 3/4 cup (5-6) egg whites, it is important that they are at room temperature

-600ml of whipable cream
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
- 2 tablespoons of brown sugar

Seasonal fruit such as:
- 2 punnets of strawberries and 2 punnets of raspberries or:
- 2 large mangoes and 3 passionfruit worth of pulp and seeds.


First of all you will need to separate the whites from the yolks. Keep the whites out so that they come to room temperature, this will take about 30 minutes. Then, collect all the utensils that you will be using to make the meringue and give them a good wash so that they are spotlessly clean. This may seem a little strange however if there is any oil or grease on anything they whites will not aerate properly. Set your oven to 135".

Grease each cake pan with a little butter and then dust the insides with some icing sugar so that each pan is fully coated inside then tap out the excess sugar. Line the bottom of each tin with a circle of baking paper.

Place the caster sugar, brown sugar, cornflour and cream of tartar into your food processor and plus until they are all completely combined, this will make the meringue much smoother.

Then add the now room temperate egg whites to your clean and dry bowl with a tiny pinch of salt (so that it has something to grip to) and whisk until they have reached a soft peak. You will know it is at soft peaks when you lift up the beaters and there is a little mound that gently falls over.

At this point begin adding your sugar mix slowly, spoonful by spoonful. The sugar has all been added whisk for one extra minute so that it is all completely mixed. It should look glossy and smooth.

Combine the vinegar with the vanilla essence and drizzle it into the meringue mixture while mixing. Continue mixing for another 5 minutes. The meringue should be at a firm peak, this means that when you lift the beaters out it a strand should stand up tall without falling over. You should be able to tip up the bowl without any of the mixture moving.

Gently spoon out the mixture into your pre-prepared cake tins. Try to be as even as possible so that your layers are even. It is also important to make sure that the meringue reaches to the edges of the pan. Smooth over the tops and place them in the oven cook for 1 hour.

After an hour turn off the oven and wedge the door open with a tea towel of a wooden spoon. Leave them to cool for another hour; don't fret if the tops crack slightly.

I have found that is the best to wait until close to serving before assembling the full pavlova. Whip up the cream with the small amount of brown sugar and vanilla essence, if you want you can add a splash of brandy or Benedictine liquor as well. It will be easiest to whip up the cream when it is cold. Like the meringue the cream should reach firm peaks.

When you are ready to serve gently slide a knife around the rims of the cake tins and very gently tip the meringue out, remembering to remove the circle of baking paper from the bottom. Add a third of your cream to the top of the first layer and decorate with your chosen fruit. I think that it looks quite beautiful if you allow some juices or even pieces of fruit to fall over the edge and run delicately down the side. Repeat the process for the other two layers, carefully placing each meringue on top of your pavlova stack.

When serving this beautiful pavlova there is no way to avoid the mess, while it make look delicate the layers of cream and meringue have the tendency to crumbly and cave after you have started cutting. So, I would suggest getting a large knife to carve into it and plenty of willing friends standing by with plates ready to enjoy some of you fantastic creations as you cut each slice. Alternatively you can cut tier by tier, but where’s the fun in that?

I hope you all have a lovely weekend and hopefully there will be a few days of summer sunshine left until the rain clouds once again descend.



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