These last few weeks leading up to Caplin's due date, I've been baking and cooking and creating. It really feels so good to keep myself busy doing what I love. Baking has always been something I've WANTED to learn, but I've never had the patience for. I think it's funny that I waited until after I had a toddler and am 39 weeks pregnant with my second to pick it up. I guess I love a challenge?
While I was in Jackson with Tiffany and Elizabeth last September, they were explaining the science and base of baking and it was so intriguing! I have been inspired to learn ever since. I still don't get a lot of it...but then again, I've only made a handful of things since then. Practice makes perfect, right?
These mini pavlovas have always drawn me in with their fluffy exterior...although I really had no idea what they were supposed to taste like. Tanner says they taste like a really good Peep, only more crunchy on the outside. I agree with that...and also a lot less sweet and processed. A pavlova is just a fancy term for a thick meringue that is baked at a very low temperature for a long time. The outside gets nice and crispy, and the inside stays fluffy and slightly chewy like a marshmallow. I'll admit, for someone who HATES the way styrofoam feels...it was really hard to touch them when they came out of the oven. They are super light and hollow sounding! Rest assured they taste nothing like styrofoam. haha.
I fully intended to make a rhubarb compote instead of using all fresh fruit, but I was at the grocery store 2 hours past naptime and they didn't have any rhubarb! I was not about to try my luck with another stop...especially after the fit he threw getting out of the cool green "racecar" attached to the cart. Nope...ain't nobody got time for that!
These were delightfully easy (with a few tips I learned researching the best techniques for pavlovas) and a really awesome last minute addition to your 4th of July BBQ menu! The pavlova bases can be made a day ahead of time, but make sure to store them in an airtight container in the fridge!!
The ingredient list is really pretty small. For the pavlovas, you'll need some egg whites (I used 4), castor sugar which is basically superfine sugar, (I found some ultrafine baker's sugar at the store and it worked great. I read that you can also put regular granulated sugar in your food processor and it will work the same as well), cream of tartar to help stabilize the meringue, and vanilla. The salt and vanilla are not necessary...I just love the taste of vanilla.
If you're wanting to make the vanilla bean whipped cream that I used, you'll need heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar, and 2 vanilla beans.
As for any other toppings, the sky is the limit! I used peaches, strawberries, and blueberries.
Lets get down to it. First, you'll need to separate your egg whites from the yolk. Do that right when you take your eggs out of the fridge! It's much easier to separate when they're cold. Take extra care to not get any shell or yolk in your whites or the meringue won't set up right!
Side note: I learned while researching that the best eggs for meringues are COLD eggs. It does take a bit longer to whip up, but the foam is much more stable and easy to work with. (You ARE using cream of tartar to help stabilize the meringue so it's not life or death if they're not super cold when you start whipping). For you veteran bakers, has this been your experience?
Pour your egg whites into a (VERY) clean mixing bowl and start beating the egg whites until foam appears and you get loose peaks forming. I love using my Kitchenaid Artisan stand mixer because I can just let it rip and walk away! Plus it's aqua, so....
For a visual on those loose peaks, imagine something like bubble bath foam that doesn't quite hold it's shape anymore.
Now, slowly start adding your sugar. You want to make sure all of it gets dissolved in the meringue, so go slow and expect this part to take a little while! To check and make sure all of your sugar is dissolved, scoop out a little bit of the mixture and rub it between your fingers. If you feel any graininess, keep mixing! I think it took me about 5 minutes to add the sugar and another 5-8 minutes before the sugar had completely dissolved.
When your mixture is done, it'll be like marshmallow creme. Spoon some of the mixture on to a lined baking sheet (use a silpat or parchment paper) and bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes. Turn the oven off at that point and let them cool in the oven for 30 minutes. Take them out and allow them to finish cooling on a wire rack. Don't handle them until they've completely cooled off! If you tap them, they should sound hollow and have a slight creme/golden color to them.
That's it for the bases! From here, it's up to you how to top them. If you'd like to make the vanilla bean whipped cream, just chill your mixing bowl and whisk for 30 minutes, add in heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla beans, and beat on medium until the whipped cream is stiff! Dangerously simple.
Mini Pavlovas with Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream + Fresh Fruit
For the pavlovas:
4 egg whites
250 g castor sugar (or regular granulated sugar pulsed in a food processor for 1 minute)
1 tsp cream of tartar
For the vanilla bean whipped cream:
1 pint heavy whipping cream
6 TBSP powdered sugar
2 vanilla beans, split and scraped
Separate egg whites from egg yolk and beat on a medium speed with the cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Slowly (about a tablespoon at a time) add your sugar until it's completely mixed in. This part takes time...I would say to plan on about 5-8 minutes to get it all incorporated. Test to see if all the sugar has dissolved by dipping your finger in the mix and rubbing it between your fingers to see if there is any graininess. If so, continue to beat until smooth. Spoon your mixture out onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat and bake on 300 degrees for 30 minutes. Turn off the oven and let the pavlovas cool in the oven for 30 minutes. Let them finish cooling on a wire rack (completely) before handling!! They are very fragile.
While they're cooling, beat your heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla beans on medium speed until the whipped cream sets up and gets nice and stiff.
Top pavlovas with whipped cream and fresh fruit, and enjoy!
What do you think...would you make these? What other cooking and baking type posts would you like to see from us?