The first time I tried a pavlova was in my single days living in Chicago, and my dear Australian friend made this for my birthday. I couldn't get enough, and I wasn't even gluten-free at the time! I just thought it was the greatest thing ever and wished my friend would make it for me on a regular basis. The pavlova originated as a dessert from Australian and New Zealand, and is traditionally topped with cream, strawberries, kiwi and passionfruit.
And the best thing of all about this wondrous thing called a pavlova, it is naturally gluten-free!! Yippee, don't you just love when some of your favorite foods are safe for you just the way they are? Score!
For my "big" birthday last year, I requested from my mom, who was visiting from Florida, to make me one, and she didn't disappoint. I saw the cover of the April 2012 issue of Southern Living and knew I had to have it! I had this issue saved since April on my coffee table, just because I couldn't get enough of the cover. She did not follow the recipe exactly, but it was our inspiration.
And it came out looking just as beautiful. Thank you mom!
This past weekend, I was lucky enough to ring in another year with my family. And while I love my family more than anything, I know them, and I knew I wasn't getting a homemade birthday dessert from my husband or daughter, so I had to take matters into my own hands.
As my very good friend, Julie, in Chicago once told me....I will set myself up for disappointment if I wait for something to be done, so I need to do it myself and just enjoy the occasion. And that is what I did. I made my own birthday dessert. Of course, M had to clean up the kitchen, but hey, I cook, I don't do the messy stuff. It's the least fun part of the whole cooking experience.
Since, I picked up fresh Georgia peaches that morning from the Grant Park Farmers Market, I decided to whip up a pavlova (just one layer this time) with a Southern twist as this year's birthday treat.
A pavlova looks and sounds a lot more intimidating than it is. It is simple....meringue, cream and fruit, and viola! There you have it. The fact that it is simple is what makes it so good! It also keeps easily in the fridge if you can't finish it, but it will be difficult not to go back for second, thirds......
The most crucial step in the whole pavlova-making process is to get good, clean egg whites. My suggestion...seperate them one egg at a time, so if you do mess up, you will not ruin all the eggs at once, and need to run out to buy more in a frenzy of panic. Trust me on this one.
We went out for an amazing birthday dinner with my family, to Wisteria, which had a delicious gluten-free menu, and then came home to this:
I may have made my own birthday dessert, and received funny looks from my friends, but hey, I wasn't disappointed. Thank you Julie for that wise tip!
It is important to make sure you have parchment paper before you start this recipe. It is also important to note, that you don't want to assemble the meringue, cream and fruit until just before serving, so it is at its freshest.
Pavlova with Fresh Peaches
4 egg whites
1/2 cup fine, white sugar
1/2 teaspoon creme of tartar
1 cup of heavy cream
1/2 cup of mascarpone or ricotta (different textures, but equally as delicious)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
fresh fruit for topping - sliced strawberries, blueberries, or sliced ripe peaches. Any fruit will do. If using sliced fruit, you can slice ahead of time and toss in a bowl with a teaspoon of sugar and let sit for an hour, which will make them juicy and saucy.
Preheat oven to 250'
In a mixing bowl, beat the egg whites and the cream of tartar at high speed with an electric hand-mixture until foamy. Gradually add the sugar until it dissolves. Continue mixing until the egg whites become firm, stiff and spoonable, about 4 or 5 minutes;
Place parchment paper on a large cookie sheet. Place a dinner plate upside down on the parchment paper and use a pen to trace around it. Remove the plate.
Gently spoon the egg white mixture into the traced circle, and spread evenly;
Place in the oven, and bake for one hour, turning tray after 30 minutes;
Turn the oven off, and let the meringue sit in the oven with the door closed, but oven light on for 2 hours, or until meringue is completely dry.
For the cream topping, combine the 4 ingredients in a mixing bowl, and use an electric hand-mixer until it becomes stiff, and spoonable.
Once ready to serve, spoon the cream onto the finished meringue, top with the fresh fruit and serve. To save leftovers (if there are any), carefully cover in plastic wrap, and the pavlova will be equally enjoyable the next day.