Now that the holidays are long gone, I have no excuse but to jump back into work and start making (aka eating) a bunch of new recipes. All for you, of course, because that’s the type of person that I am. I’m willing to sacrifice everything by stuffing my face, day in and day out, just so that you can have something to look at. Something new to try out in the kitchen and something to look forward to. With the new year, comes a promise to post more because I know I’ve been slacking, somewhat. But believe me it’s all for good reasons and exciting new prospects—both in my personal and professional life. I think that this year should be all about breaking out of our comfort zones in the kitchen and trying out new recipes and techniques. Let’s stop being scared of certain dishes or ingredients and just dive into a new us. That new us being fearless cooks and bakers because this year, we’re going to be the best cooks and bakers we can be. This year, we’re going to wow our friends, family and loved ones with dishes that aren’t only delicious but look incredible as well. This year, is going to be a great year because we’re going to make it a great year.
It was difficult for me to think of the first post for the new year. Well, if I’m being completely honest, it was hard for me to jump back into work altogether. My brain was still on holiday mode and the yearning to continue doing nothing at all. Bowling, museums, movies, drives through the coast for Friday morning hikes, spontaneous homemade meals and lounging around on the couch watching movies with that special someone, makes it somewhat difficult to want to do anything else. Am I right, ladies and gentlemen? It wasn’t until I actually got back to working that I realized how much I missed it. “Welcome back, Jonathan,” I told myself. To which, I of course responded, “Thank you! It’s good to be back.”Sometimes I have conversations with myself because I’m weird like that, but we’ve already established that, haven’t we? Don’t judge.
Anyhow, enough about that. So here we are, the first post of January 2014. A dessert post at that, because I know how much you all love dessert posts. I wanted to share one of my favorite desserts with you but with a winter twist because although it might not seem like it’s winter here in Los Angeles (80+ degrees and all), I know for a fact that it feels like winter has taken over all around the midwest and east coast. It’s not a winter dessert in that it’s warm and comforting but more so about the ingredients we’re using. If you’ve ever had a fear of separating eggs and whipping the whites to make meringue, well then you’re in luck because this recipe is all about that. Let’s take a step towards that 2014 resolution we were talking about earlier. It’s time to get over that fear and conquer it like no one’s business. Like we’ve been conquering fears all our lives, and to a certain degree I guess we have been. We do it every day, even when we don’t think we are. It’s the way of life. Just like it’s the way of life for me to eat a dozen pavlovas and not feel any guilt whatsoever. Come on, let’s make some pavlovas together and then we’ll eat them all because that’s the way life wants it to be.
Pavlovas are probably, hands down, my favorite dessert to make. Mostly because it’s fun to say. Pavlovas. Pavlovas. PAVLOVAS. But also because they’re kind of awesome to whip up, pun intended. And by kind of awesome, I of course mean, they’re the most fun you can have in the kitchen. There is something so incredible about watching egg whites fluff up into mounds of white clouds right before your eyes. It’s like magic and it gets me every time. Just a few egg whites, hardly anything in a large bowl, will transform into something so big and majestic, like whoa.
But enough about magic in the kitchen, let’s get started on making some pavlovas (pavlovas. Pavlovas. PAVLOVAS), shall we? We start by mixing together the granulated sugar and cornstarch, a simple step but it needs to be done.
**Tip: If you don’t have cornstarch on hand, or don’t like to use it for whatever reason (like you’re a weirdo or something, kidding) you can use potato starch or arrow root starch instead. It just helps stabilize the whipped egg whites later on. You’re only adding a little.**
Just whisk the two ingredients in a small bowl, until evenly combined. Then set it off to the side.
Now we’re going to need a large mixing bowl. Pour in the egg whites.
**Tip: It’s very important that the egg whites be at room temperature. This will help them whip up properly and more majestically. Also, it’s even more important that there is absolutely no yolk in the whites. Any small amount of yolk will prevent the whites from whipping up and becoming high and fluffy. It’s just the way of life. So make sure you’ve separated the eggs properly.**
Beat with an electric mixer, or with a stand mixer, on medium until frothy.
Gradually add the sugar/cornstarch mixture, continuing to beat, raising the speed to high until soft peaks form.
Once the egg whites have thickened and soft peaks have formed, add the vanilla extract and cream of tarter.
**Tip: Cream of tarter is essential when whipping egg whites because it helps to stabilize the whites once they are whipped. You don’t want them to deflate later on, cream of tarter prevents that. If you can’t find any cream of tarter or don’t have some on hand, you can use an equal amount of white vinegar instead. It’ll do the same thing.**
Continue to beat on high, until the egg whites are glossy and stiff peaks are formed. You should be able to lift the beater(s) and the egg whites will stand on their own without dripping.
**Tip: You need stiff peaks because it will ensure that the pavlovas keep their shape while they bake in the oven. If the whites are runny, you’ll end up with a mess later on.**
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Depending on the size you want your pavlovas, make a few even circles on the parchment paper. I made my circles about six inches. This will act as a stencil when you go to pipe out the pavlovas.
**Note: You want to prepare the pan and parchment paper first thing, before the meringue is ready.**
Make sure to flip the paper over so you don’t pipe out the egg whites directly onto the pencil or pen markings. No one wants to eat that.
Then transfer the meringue to a pastry bag, fitted with a star tip.
**Tip: If you don’t have a pastry bag with piping tips, don’t sweat it. It’s not crucial or necessary. You can just spoon out the egg whites over the circles. It’ll be more rustic but it’ll work perfectly! Just make sure to leave an indentation in the center for the filling.**
Pipe out the egg whites over the circles you drew, making sure to create a wall and leaving the center somewhat shallow, so you can fill it later on.
Bake the pavlovas in a preheated 200°F degree oven for about 1 hour, or until dry and firm. If you find the pavlovas are cracking before being ready, you can lower the temperature by 15°. Once done, turn off the oven and open the door slightly. Leave them in there and allow to cool down completely. This will help out with the drying process.
While the pavlovas are baking and cooling in the oven, let’s turn our attention to the filling. Pavlovas have a sauce of some sort and then are usually topped with fresh fruit. So we’re going to make a winter sauce.
In a deep skillet, or sauce pot, add the cranberries, raspberries, and sugar.
Next up is a squeeze of fresh orange juice, orange rinds, and diced apples.
**Tip: I’m using a small granny smith apple, that I peeled and diced into small pieces. I think granny smith are the best in this recipe because they are the most sweet and tart and those flavors will work well in this sauce. It’s really just a way to add flavor and to thicken the sauce naturally.**
Whenever I think of winter, I automatically think of cranberries for some reason. SO that’s why we’re using cranberries for this sauce. At the same time, whenever I think of cranberries, I think of spices. So we’re going to spice this sauce up with a bunch of warming spices.
We’re going to add cloves, allspice, ginger, whole cinnamon sticks and freshly grated nutmeg…also a pinch of salt to balance everything out.
I don’t think there’s anything else we can add to the sauce so let’s call it a day. We’ve pretty much already added the entire kitchen.
Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until the fruit has broken down and the sauce has thickened. If you find the sauce to be thickening too much, you can add a splash of water to thin it out somewhat.
It should take about 10 to 15 minutes.
Once the sauce is done, remove and discard the orange rinds and cinnamon sticks. Transfer to a small bowl or container and allow to cool down at room temperature.
When the pavlovas are completely cooled and dried out, and the sauce is at room temperature you can proceed to assembling them. Before we can do that though, we need to make one more component. The pavlovas get filled with some fresh whipped cream in the center, so let’s make some whipped cream. It’s super easy to do.
All you need is very cold heavy whipping cream, powered sugar and vanilla extract. Whip by hand or with a mixer until soft peaks form.
Once the cream is done you can fill the pavlovas and then top with the cranberry raspberry sauce.
**Tip: If you’re a fan of chunky sauces, you can just spoon the sauce, as is, over the pavlovas. But, if you’re like me and prefer a smooth texture, then you can purée the sauce in a blender or food processor, right before serving.**
You can garnish the pavlovas with sugared cranberries, if you’re into that sort of thing. All you do is take a few fresh cranberries (or thawed frozen cranberries would work too), dip them in water and then roll them in granulated sugar. Allow the sugar to harden a bit, then place on top of the pavlovas before serving. It’s a wow garnish that might appear like it’s no big deal but when you actually place it on the pavlovas, it becomes a really big deal. It takes them over the edge and makes them really fancy without being overly elaborate.
Pavlova is that fancy treat you can keep, hidden, under your sleeve for whenever you need a “wow” dessert at the end of a meal. Not just any meal, but a meal you’ve worked so hard to impress. The best part about it is how simple it is to make, yet no one needs to know that. You can keep that to yourself. Let people believe that you slaved away in the kitchen all day, creating this beautiful dessert. You can use that to your advantage. Start telling your loved ones, you’re too tired to wash dishes or clean the kitchen because it took you so long to make the pavlovas. Then go sit down on the couch and relax as they clean up the mess. It’s a win-win, if you ask me.
If you’re not a fan of cranberry sauce, or just cranberries in general, have no fear. You can choose other fruits to fill this with. You can make a simple raspberry sauce by puréeing frozen raspberries with some sugar and lemon or orange juice. Cook on a stove top for a few minutes until warmed and thickened. Spoon over the whipped cream and meringue shells then top with a mixture of fresh berries. You can also make a strawberry sauce in a similar manner. The meringue with the whipped cream is really just a blank canvas to where ever you imagination takes you.
Feel free to make the shells ahead of time. You can make them a few days in advance and just store them in an airtight container at room temperature. It will make this dessert even easier. That way they are ready and waiting for you, not the other way around. It will give you more time the day of, when you plan to serve them. You can also make the sauce ahead of time as well. Just store the sauce in the fridge and rewarm, slightly, before serving. I think that desserts should be simple like that so that you’re not running around on the day of a dinner party, stressed out that you have too much to do and not enough time to do it in. That happens all the time. Pick desserts like this, where you can make some of the components ahead of time and just worry about assembling it on the day of. Plus it also helps when the dessert looks fancy and incredible.
Normally, pavlovas are served as one giant serving, family style. You make one giant meringue and then fill it and top it. Place it in the center of the table and cut into it or just dig in like a giant family. I like making individual pavlovas because I think they make a better presentation but also because then you don’t have to worry about whether or not people got enough meringue to whipped cream to fruit filling ratio. But also, the minis are great because there’s something about having your own personal dessert. It makes the ending of the meal so awesome and somewhat special. So whenever you’re in the market for a simple and delicious dessert that will wow a crowd, well just make some pavlovas. You know you want to. Enjoy!
Cranberry Raspberry Pavlovas
This basic pavlova recipe can be used with any filling of your choice. If you’re not a fan of cranberries or raspberries, feel free to use your favorite fruits. Do a mixture of fresh berries like, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries. Go a little wild and turn it into a kiwi pavlova if you’d like! Use this simple meringue recipe and turn it into whatever you’d like. The best part about it is that you can make the different components ahead of time and just assemble when you are ready to serve!
yield: 6 individual pavlovas
- 4 egg whites, at room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon cream of tarter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 (12oz) bag fresh cranberries
- 1 pint fresh raspberries
- 1 orange, peeled and juiced
- 1 granny smith apple, peeled, cored and diced
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- pinch of salt
- 1½ cups heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ cup powered sugar
1. Preheat oven to 200°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On one side of the paper, trace out six circles, evenly spaced out, measuring 6-inches in diameter. Turn the paper over and set the baking sheet aside.
2. In a small bowl, combine the granulated sugar and cornstarch until evenly combined. In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites on low until frothy, about 3 minutes. While the mixer is running, gradually add the sugar and cornstarch mixture. Raise the speed to high and continue to beat until soft peaks form, another 5 minutes. Add the vanilla extract and cream of tarter, and continue to beat on high until stiff peaks form and the egg whites are glossy and thick, another 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the egg whites to a piping bag, fitted with a star tip, and pipe out the meringue, using the drawn circles as a stencil. If you don’t have a piping bag or fancy tips, you can just spoon the meringue onto each circle. Bake for 1 hour, or until the meringue has dried out and is firm. Turn off the oven, about the door slightly and allow the meringue to cool down completely.
3. In a sauce pot or large skillet, add the cranberries, raspberries, a few orange peels, juice of half an orange, diced apple, ginger, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon sticks, and salt. Mix to combine and cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently to prevent sticking or burning. Cook the filling for about 10 minutes, or until the fruit has broken down and the sauce has thickened. Remove from the flame and discard the orange peels and cinnamon sticks. Allow to cool down at room temperature. You can transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor to purée or you can leave it chunky.
4. In a large bowl, whip the heavy cream until it has slightly thickened, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the vanilla extract and powdered sugar and continue to whip until soft peaks form.
5. Fill each pavlova shell (or however many you plan on serving) with some of the whipped cream. Top with the cranberry raspberry sauce and serve right away. The components can be made ahead of time and stored separately. Keep the meringues at room temperature, in an airtight container for up to 3 days. The sauce and the whipped cream will keep in the fridge for up to 1 week. Assemble when needed. Enjoy!