Monday, April 9, 2012

Pavlova - A Spectacular Gluten-Free Dessert

I love to cook new things, and ever since our family began eating gluten-free I've had a wonderful time trying different recipes and ingredients.  This Easter I decided to expand my gluten-free experiences once again with several different recipes using meringue/egg whites.  I tried a new recipe for coconut macaroons, which turned out amazing.  I'll share that recipe in another blog post.  I also decided to make a Pavlova to take to an Easter dinner we were attending.  It turned out to be a real show stopper.

Out of the 40 guests who attended the dinner, only two other people were familiar with the dessert Pavlova.  Both were friends who were European where the dessert is prepared frequently, especially in England. I was reading in a book by the English chef Nigella Lawson recently where she stated that she didn't think she could ever publish a cookbook without including a recipe for some type of Pavlova.  After tasting and eating the one I made for our Easter dinner, I can definitely see why!

Pavlova is basically a big meringue piled high with whipped cream and topped with an assortment of berries or other fruit, such as kiwi or passion fruit.  I've had friends also tell me that sometimes people prepare it with a sliced grape topping instead of the berries, and that it was "quite divine".

Pavlova is actually native to New Zealand and Australia. It is believed to have been created in honor of Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, one of the finest classical ballet dancers in history, when she toured both countries in the 1920's.  Recipes for this dessert started appearing in the cookbooks from those two countries in the 1940's and dessert has become part of the national cuisine of both.

Although I referred above to Pavlova as a big meringue, there is a important difference between a meringue and Pavlova that should be pointed out.  It's the addition of cornstarch to the Pavlova which results in it's crisp outer shell and a soft, marshmallow like center.  The cornstarch also makes the Pavlova more fragile then a normal meringue.

Bringing this wonderful dessert to our Easter dinner really was a show stopper - I'm not kidding.  I assembled the Pavlova right before I served it, and when I carried it out to the dessert table everyone kept stopping me to ask about it.  When I finally "got" to the table and put it down, the Pavlova was  completely gone in less then ten minutes - before the rest of the desserts even made it to the table.

Pavlova is definitely going to be a new special occasion dessert for our family, as well as my new "take to a party" dish.  The fact that it's gluten-free and fairly easy to cook only makes it that much better!

 
4 egg whites
1 cup sugar (superfine)
1 teaspoon vanilla
a pinch of cream of tarter
1 tablespoon corn starch
a few drops of fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.  Beat egg whites until they form stiff peaks, then add the sugar in a little at a time.  Make sure the sugar is incorporated well and dissolves.  Add cream of tarter, corn starch, vanilla and lemon juice.

Draw a circle on parchment paper.  (trace a dinner plate)
Pile the meringue onto the parchment paper using a rubber spatula and spread it in the circle.  Pile it a little higher in the center.  Bake for 1 hour.  Turn over off, crack the door open a bit and let it completely cool at least one hour, if not longer. 



Peel the parchment off the back carefully, place in a decorative service plate, spread with fresh whipped cream and top with berries.  If the meringue cracks, don't worry.  You can cover it up with the whipped cream!  Assemble and serve immediately so the meringue does not become soggy.  enjoy!

notes:

* If you're going to go through all the trouble to make this dessert, use real whipped cream.  Don't give it a sub-standard taste by using Cool Whip or some other fake whipped cream.   Besides the taste factor, fake whipped cream is not real food.  You are putting nothing but chemicals and additives into your body.

* It takes one pint of whipping cream (heavy cream) for this dessert.  As with all cream that you whip, chill the bowl and beaters before whipping.  I also added a little sugar to the whipped cream to give it a hint of sweetness.

* The Pavlova meringue can be made ahead of time and stored in an airtight container for a few days prior to use.




another Buddy Fergurson approved recipe!






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