Last month we invited my parents and brother to join us for a Fourth of July barbeque and to watch our neighbors blow up their paychecks. Fireworks are still legal in our area and we are usually treated to a 360 degree display from the end of our driveway. This year did not disappoint. My mother, firecracker that she is, was born a few days shy of Independence Day. In her honor, I turned one celebration into two and asked the birthday girl to choose the dessert.
I really wanted her to pick something sinful so I could indulge a pregnancy craving or two in the process of granting her request. My mother went a much more sensible route and asked for something light and fresh to help her lose one last pound before vacation. Lucky for both of us I listened to my mother.
I can't remember when I first heard of Pavlova, but making one has been a bee in my bonnet for sometime. It seemed a little daunting in concept but the execution proved stunningly simple. To make this dessert, all you need is a fluffy meringue pillow to hold a bit of whipped cream and fruit. The precise nuance is up to personal taste. For this occasion I added a bit of vanilla pudding to the whipped cream giving the dessert a bit more body. There is also hints of citrus in both the meringue and the cream.
The finished dessert turned out precisely as ordered. I presented Mom with a confection worthy of her birthday celebration. As requested a single serving would not derail her pre-vacation weight loss. It also indulged my not so subtle craving for something ooey-gooey and sweet. The unexpected bonus came from my dad who complimented the pavlova not one but at least three times after dessert was served. From a man who is not always forth coming with praise, his reaction sealed the deal - pavlova will most certainly be on the menu at future celebrations.
Celebrate summer with a super simple light dessert that puts fresh fruit in the spot light and takes very little time in the kitchen. The meringue base may be made one to two days in advance. Keep tightly covered or in an air tight container and store in a cool dry spot until ready to serve.
Modified from Strawberry Pavlova on Allrecipes.com
Prep time: 30 minutes. Cook time: 1 1/4 hours. Yield: 8 servings.
4 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tarter
Pinch of salt
1 cup sugar (2/3 cup white and 1/3 cup raw for deeper flavor)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime & lime juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
Optional: 2 teaspoons of citrus zest
1/2 cup whipping cream to equal 1 cup whipped (may substitute whipped topping)
2 teaspoons lime and lemon juice
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 cup vanilla pudding
2 or more cups of fresh berries washed, dried, and sliced as needed
Prepare the meringue base:
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. You may want to draw a simple circle stencil on the reverse side of your parchment. Measure the diameter of your serving plate and draw your circle about a half-inch smaller. The meringue will puff out just a bit while baking. For food safety reasons make sure the pencil or pen line is face down on the pan not touching your meringue.
Whip the egg whites in a large bowl with cream of tarter and salt until they form soft peaks. This can be done by hand but works best with an electric mixer on medium speed. Add the sugar a couple of tablespoons at a time and continue whipping until glossy firm peaks form. Your meringue is stiff enough when you can hold the bowl upside down over your head with no fear of the eggs falling on you, try it! If adding zest, fold it in to the batter.
Use a spatula to scoop your meringue on to the parchment lined pan. Use a light hand to keep the air in the meringue. With soft strokes shape the meringue into a shallow bowl with the sides mounded higher than the center.
Bake about 1 1/4 hours until firm to the touch. Keep an eye on the meringue as it bakes and reduce the oven heat to 225 degrees if it begins to darken. Remove the meringue when it is firm but before it dries into a styrofoam frisbee. Allow the meringue to cool completely before completing the dessert. If preparing in advance, leave the base on the baking sheet and wrap it tightly with plastic film. It should keep for a day or two in a cool dry spot.
Approximate nutrition for 1/8 of meringue: 107 calories, .1 g fat, 26 g. carbohydrates, 0 g. fiber, 1.8 g. protein, PP = 3
Prepare the topping:
Rinse your berries and allow them to dry completely. Slice or chop berries as needed to make bite sized pieces.
If whipping the cream from liquid, beat the lime/lemon juice and syrup into the cream and beat until fluffy. Fold the pudding into the whipped cream. If using prepared whipped topping, fold together the topping, juice, syrup, and pudding.
Right before serving, spoon the cream over the meringue base and top with the prepared berries. Garnish with a bit of lime or lemon zest. Serve immediately.
Approximate nutrition for 1/8 of topping (excluding berries): 74 calories, 5.6 g fat, 8 g carbohydrates, 0 g fiber, 1 g protein, PP = 2
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