Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Spring Pavlova {Lemon Curd, Roasted Strawberries, and Whipped Cream}

I didn't want to bake a cake for my mom's birthday. It was time to switch things up. With the beautiful spring weather, it needed to be light. Fruity. A little refreshing.

Inspiration struck with a lovely Pavlova.

I've only made a Pavlova once before - years ago for Thanksgiving. It was wicked good. There was chocolate involved. I never got to post it because it was the holidays and well, sometimes you're too busy to snap a bunch of pictures. Ya feel me?

Pavlovas's are fascinating little meringue wonders. It's baked egg white and sugar. That's about it. The result is a large, delicious marshmallow encased in a crispy shell.  

Top it with anything. Go crazy. You could do fresh berries, nutella, whipped cream, jam, chocolate mousse, etc. I selected simple, roasted strawberries - because they literally make everything better. Throw in some whipped cream to make it classic. But oh wait, there's more. Class it up with lemon curd. Ultimate warm-weather flavors.

The result was honestly... some restaurant-level goodness. How good? My husband asked me NOT to make eclairs for his birthday this year - he wanted this Pavlova again. A whole week later. He's not a citrus dessert kind of guy. Lemon bars are my kryptonite. He was shoveling down a second serving of Pavlova while everyone else was still finishing their first slice.

A pro tip to share in my Pavlova adventures - make sure your baking environment is nice and cool. When I made this cake for my husband, it felt like one of those frustrating Great British Baking Challenge episodes. I baked it - all was well - and then suddenly it deflated. That's a new one!

After some quick research, I learned that the most likely culprit was the humidity. Even though I left it to cool completely in the oven, the AC was off and house was warm. It was back to the drawing board and I closed all the windows in the house. For the second round, the Pavlova came out splendorous!

All the elements combined makes a light treat that's perfect for any occasion this spring and summer!

Spring Pavlova

slightly modified from Nigella Lawon's recipe in New York Times

4 egg whites
pinch of salt
1 cup superfine sugar
2 teaspoons corn starch
1 teaspoon white-wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven 350F. Draw an eight to nine inch round circle on parchment paper and place on flat baking sheet.

Combine egg whites and pinch of salt in stand-mixer. Starting on low speed and gradually increasing, whip eggs until it is has a satin texture. Continue mixing on a medium-speed while slowly adding sugar. Whip until you achieve a meringue texture. You should be able to hold the bowl upside down and the egg white mixture doesn't move. It's go time!

With a spatula, fold in the cream of tartar, vinegar, and vanilla. Spoon into the circle on the parchment paper and spread with off-set spatula. I like to keep the shape rustic and chunky.

Place in oven. Immediately lower the temperature to 275F. Bake for 1hour-1hour 15 minutes. Turn off heat and DO NOT OPEN OVEN. Let cool completely in the oven, at least 1hour to overnight.

Lemon Curd
by Cook's Country

1/3 cup fresh-squeeze lemon juice
2 large eggs
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1/4 -1/2 cup sugar (depending on how tart you want it)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Heat lemon juice in small saucepan over medium heat until warm but not boiling. Whisk eggs and yolk in medium bowl; gradually whisk in sugar. Whisking constantly, slowly pour hot lemon juice into eggs, then return mixture to saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with wooden spoon, until mixture registers 170 degrees on instant-read thermometer and is thick enough to cling to spoon, about 3 minutes.

Immediately remove pan from heat and stir in cold butter until incorporated; stir in cream, vanilla, and salt, then pour curd through fine-mesh strainer into small nonreactive bowl. Cover surface of curd directly with plastic wrap; refrigerate until needed.

Roasted Strawberries

32 ounces fresh strawberries, washed and dried
1-2 tablespoons turbinado or regular sugar
small squeeze of lemon juice

Preheat oven 400F. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Hull and halve the strawberries. Toss in a bowl with sugar and lemon juice. Spread across baking sheet and bake for about 25 minutes, until soft. Let allow to cool to room temperature.

Layer the top of the Pavlova with lemon curd, whipped cream, and top with strawberries.