All Mixed Up at ccMixter

Sunday, June 10, 2007


I attempted to make a Pavlova. The LA Times Food Section had a feature article on Pavlovas -- crispy, gooey meringue shell filled with whipped cream and fresh, seasonal fruit. It looked so simple and delicious, I thought I would give it a try. Now, I can cook up a storm. As I am cooking, I can anticipate how my ingredients will blend, transforming into a savory delicious dish. But baking is altogether different. Baking is science. The ingredients go into the oven one way and emerge another way altogether. I have no sense of control over the outcome when I bake and have to completely rely on recipes. When cooking, I trust myself to tweak or experiment. If I do no have a particular ingredient, I can substitute with confidence. Baking however. . .well, baking gives me the willies.

Nevertheless, I thought I would try to make the Pavlova. Meringue has no fat. The non-dairy whipped cream I use is low calorie. Berries are full of antioxidants and a family favorite. How could I go wrong?

The first way I went wrong is by not having the right equipment. I notice that many dessert recipes call for an electric mixer. I do not own an electric mixer. I do have an old hand held Braun infusion mixer which I use in a pinch. (I received it as a wedding shower gift 18 years ago and it still runs.) The recipe calls for eight egg whites whipped on medium speed until peaks form, about three minutes. I whipped the egg whites. At three minutes, the egg whites were slightly foamy and still very liquid. I whipped some more. The eggs whites became frothy. I continued whipping. The eggs whites eventually became somewhat solid, creating a soft mound more than peaks. I was sick of whipping and decided to move on.

The recipe next called for 2-1/2 cups of superfine sugar, gradually blended with a whisk. I had the sugar and I had a whisk. As I added the sugar, I thought it seemed like an awfully lot of sugar. However, because baking is a science, I felt compelled to follow the recipe exactly, and against my better judgment blended all of the sugar into the egg whites. The egg whites became a dense, opaque creamy color. The foam and whatever peaks may have existed within the foam disappeared as the mixture began to resemble batter.

I added the corn starch, vinegar and vanilla called for the in the recipe. I had definite concerns that the gooey mass in my mixing bowl was not right. But I followed the recipe.

I was supposed to make a circle on parchment paper placed on a cookie sheet, place the meringue on the sheet and bake it. My mixture was too liquid to put on a cookie sheet, so I poured it into a pie pan.

Because I was uncertain about my meringue, I thought I would try again. So I mixed up another batch, again carefully following the recipe. The second batch was very similar to the first batch despite my efforts to whip the egg white a little longer. I placed the second batch on the paper covered cookie sheet as described in the recipe. It did not lay in a pile as suggested by the recipe. Rather, it spread across the cookie sheet as if I was making cooking bars. It was all an experiment, so I let it go.

I baked the meringues as directed.

When it came time to assemble the Pavlova, I discovered the meringue in the pie pan did not cook all the way. While there was the white, crisp meringue crust at the top, underneath was uncooked egg white syrup. Yuck! The meringue on the cookie sheet was thoroughly cooked, so much so that the the paper cooked right into the meringue.

I was able to salvage some of the meringue from the cookie sheet. I lined a bowl with pieces of paperless meringue I manage to break off the large sheet of meringue that filled the cookie sheet, and I topped it the with whipped cream and fruit. It was delicious -- despite the meringue being a bit too sweet. My family decided we would have been just as happy with simple fruit and cream.


Rosie said...

Oh dear. That does seem an untested but published meringue recipe. I don't see cream of tartar or the temperature of the eggs mentioned and 2.5 cups of sugar seems excessive. I've only put teaspoons to tablespoons of sugar in meringues. When I had the chickens and way, way too many eggs to play with, I spent some time on meringues. They are hard...not just a science, but an art as well. Not that it can't be done with a whisk...but it's just so much better with a mixer. Very useful for folding into other dishes though.

Thanks so much for your visit. Ramps are a spring tradition here in the Appalachians. There is some concern that they aren't a sustainable food though and now that serious foodies have been taking notice, they are getting scarcer and scarcer. I don't share the location of my patch with anyone!

Mrs. Joseph said...

There was no cream of tartar -- whites were room temperature. I'll have to try again sometime -- maybe using a different recipe!

Linnie said...

Hi, I've made pavlovas quite a few times and this is the recipe I follow:

4 egg whites
1 cup caster sugar
1 tsp lemon juice or vinegar
2 tsp cornflour

Beat egg whites till soft peak form
Add sugar, lemon juice and sifted cornflour and beat until stiff and glossy (at least 10 mins)
Coer a baking tray with baking paper
Pile meringue ontop paper and shape into a large circle, leaving the centre slightly hollow
Bake in very slow oven for 1 1/2 hoursor until crisp on the outside
Turn oven off and leave pavlova to cool in oven with door ajar
Decorate with whipped cream

hope you'll have better success with this recipe

Mrs. Joseph said...

My cousin made a pavlova that she served at a family barbeque. It was perfect.

Clarice said...

You're right in that your main problem was equipment. This recipe used to be made with a hand-beater (like those ones with two whisks and a crank handle) but to save time everyone now uses a hand or stand electric mixer. I wouldn't attempt to do this with a little electric stirrer because the the eggs need to be whipped into peaks or it'll be a mess. The sugar needs to be added to these peaked eggs very gradually and once they're added it will be very glossy, peaked firmly, and a bright sugary white.
Your recipe seems fine (but large). I use this one