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Recipe: Pavlova Love

22 Apr

Pavlova is a meringue-based dessert named after the Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova. It is a meringue dessert with a crisp crust and soft, light inside.

The dessert is believed to have been created in honour of the dancer either during or after one of her tours to Australia and New Zealand in the 1920s. The nationality of its creator has been a source of argument between the two nations for many years, but formal research indicates New Zealand as the source.

–Wikipedia

Pavlova is naturally gluten free, and in fact if you left off the whipped cream it would be practically fat free as well (but, thanks to the sugar, definitely not calorie free!). It makes a great alternative to cake or pie if you (or someone you want to bake for) is allergic to gluten, or if you just want to feel like you’re eating a sweet, fluffy, marshmallowy cloud of goodness.

My friend Angela made one pavlova, and it quickly became her default dessert, and then I started making pavlova and it’s become one of my go-to desserts, and there’s just a lot of pavlova love going on here and I think you should definitely join in!

Pavlova is great for a variety of occasions!

New Year's Eve Pavlova!

PRO-TIP: Did you know that you can freeze egg whites? You can! Next time you make a pudding or a custard or anything that calls for egg yolks, save your egg whites and freeze them (in a plastic bag or, for 1 egg portions, in an ice cube tray) and just take them out and let them thaw overnight before using them. It’s awesome! You can also purchase egg whites in a carton, of course, which I have found to work just fine for pavlova (although not as well for white cake).

Birthday/Good Luck in Thailand Pavlova!

PRO-TIP #2: Did you know that you can make your own castor sugar? Just put regular ol’ granulated sugar in a food processor, cover it with a towel (to prevent sugar dust from coating your entire kitchen), and let ‘er rip. You want something finer than regular sugar, but not as fine as powdered sugar, so just keeping checking until it looks about right to you.

Just as there are many ways to skin a cat (…I hear, anyway. I’ve never tried it) there are many ways to make pavlova. I read a dozen or so recipes, and then made up my own amalgam with a little trial and error. Here’s my Frankenstein pavlova recipe:

Pavlova

  • 4-6 egg whites (room temperature)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup castor sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp cornstarch

Separate your eggs–this is easiest while they’re still cold–then let the egg whites come to room temperature (leave them covered for about half an hour). Beat egg whites and salt until peaks form. Continue beating, gradually adding vinegar, vanilla, and sugar until glossy, thick and stiff. Fold in cornstarch.

Pile the mixture on parchment paper, using a spatula shape it into a circle. To give your pavlova extra stability, use a small offset spatula, a knife, or a spoon to make vertical ridges around the sides of the pavlova. You can also make a depression into the center, to hold the topping. But don’t stress out about this too much–every pavlova I make looks different.

Heat oven to 300F, then turn down to 190F before putting in the pavlova. Bake for 1-2 hours, or until the pavlova is dry to the touch and a very, very pale beige. Turn off the heat, but leave the pavlova in the oven until it has cooled completely, to minimize cracks (some cracks are inevitable, though–don’t worry about them!)

Make the whipped cream just before serving:

Whipped cream

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 Tbs sugar (or substitute 4 Tbs honey)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Top the pavlova with the whipped cream and the fruit of your choice–anything goes! I like kiwi fruit and strawberries, personally, but any fruit will do, as will fruit curd or fruit jam or fruit compote–you get the idea. You can even do a drizzle of chocolate if you’re feeling really decadent.

Recipe Mugs: A Cup of Coffee Cake & French Toast in a Mug

19 Mar

A little while ago I stumbled on a recipe at Prudent Baby for French Toast in a mug. French Toast! in a mug! It seemed too good to be true–a single perfect serving of French Toast with minimal mess? And then even better, a recipe for coffee cake in a mug! A single serving of coffee cake! in a mug!

My use of exclamation points is probably cluing you in to my state of excitement over these discoveries, but just in case I’m confusing you, let me say: I was really excited. Sometimes you just want a little bit of something, you know? Sometimes all you need is a single serving, especially if you live alone (what is a single person going to do with a whole cake? Nothing that’s decent enough to print, that’s for sure).

Naturally, I had to test the recipes. In fact I tested them twice, just to be sure that they were really good.

And guys, they are.

This is when I had my brilliant idea–what better way to keep these excellent recipes handy than to put them on mugs? I happened to have a stash of plain white mugs, and I happened to have a black Porcelaine 150 marker. It was the simplest project ever–I just wrote the recipes out on the mugs (getting a little creative to make everything fit), let them dry for a few days, then baked them to set the paint and make them dishwasher safe.

Here are my mugs, with links to the original recipes:

2-minute French Toast in a Cup at Prudent Baby

     Notes: I didn’t alter the recipe at all, except that I failed to butter the inside of my mug, which didn’t seem to hurt anything. Also in the future I don’t think I’ll make the egg mixture separately and pour it over the bread–I think I’ll just mix it in the mug, then add the bread and stir it up to coat it thoroughly.

A Cup of Coffee Cake in under 5 minutes at Prudent Baby

     Notes: I altered the recipe very slightly, adding a teaspoon of cinnamon to the cake batter part of the recipe for more oomph. Also, she mentions that it will be hot, and by this she means that it will be really hot. As in, plan to let your cup of coffee cake sit for fifteen minutes to cool before attempting to eat it. Trust me. This is the voice of experience.

Recipe: Kay’s Challah

4 Mar

challah

Pronunciation: /ˈhɑːlə, xɑːˈlɑː/
noun (plural challahs or chalot, chaloth /xɑːˈlɒt/)

a plaited loaf of white leavened bread, traditionally baked to celebrate the Jewish sabbath.

Oxford Dictionaries

Challah is delicious, and if you look around the internet you will find many different recipes–this one comes from my dear friend Kay, and it is both yummy and easy. It’s forgiving and difficult to screw up! I love it. This evening I shared the recipe with another friend, Angela (who has been around this blog before! remember her birthday party?), and I thought that I’d get Kay’s permission to share it with all of you as well. Other than the time needed for rising it’s quite quick to make, and did I mention that it’s easy? I did? Then did I mention that it’s delicious? Well, it bears repeating.

Angela with her very first loaf of challah

This recipe makes two loaves.

Kay’s Challah

1 Tablespoon yeast

3/4 cup warm water

2 3/4 cups flour (Kay uses wheat, I’ve been using white)

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 Tablespoons honey

4 Tablespoons oil (Kay uses peanut, I use vegetable)

1 egg

Also: Either additional egg or small amount of milk or cream to brush on the outside of the loaf before baking.

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Combine flour and salt in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the liquid ingredients–oil, honey, and egg. Make a well in the center of the flour/salt and pour in the liquid ingredients and the yeast/water mixture. Combine–you can use a dough hook on a stand mixer, your hands, OR you can use a spatula to stir the ingredients together until they begin to form a dough (which is what I do).

Knead for 5 minutes in a stand mixer or for 10 minutes by hand on a floured surface. I am by no means a bread making expert, but my kneading method is to press the dough away from me with the heel of my hand, then fold it in half, turn it slightly, and repeat. I add extra flour to my hands and my surface as necessary, to keep the dough from sticking. After kneading, spray the inside of a large bowl with oil and put the dough inside, flipping it over so that it’s oiled on both sides, then cover the bowl and leave it to rise for 45 to 60 minutes in a warm place.

Punch dough down (don’t be too violent–gently pressing it down with your fist should do it) and let it rest for 5 minutes. Preheat your oven at 350F. Divide the dough into two pieces, and divide each one into another three pieces. Roll each piece between your palms to form a long strand, then braid the strands together and tuck under the ends. I made my strands about nine to twelve inches long, and stretched them gently as I braided. Cover the loaves and leave them rise again for another 20 minutes–I leave them by the preheated oven. I bake mine on parchment paper, but a lightly greased cookie sheet will also work just fine.

Brush the loaves with either a beaten egg (traditional) or milk (for a lighter brown crust), and sprinkle with nuts or seeds if desired. For a sweeter crust, whisk a dollop of honey into the egg or milk before brushing it on. Bake at 350F for 25 minutes (my oven) to 35 minutes (Kay’s oven).

My challah--this evening instead of making loaves I decided to make sandwich sized mini-loaves, some braided and some plain.

Bonus llama picture! Just because. LLAMA.