easy christmas cheer ::::
I’m going a bit nutso right now, curbing my obsessive cooking hobby as I am 1) way too backlogged on numerous posts (macarons a’coming soon) and 2) working 5 days a week again, leaving me with little time to pick over the cranberry beans at the local market at 10AM on a weekday, or delight in the wonder of ceciarchiata taiglach, or to layer leaves of phyllo with butter, sugar, spices, and rosewater. Making a much grander entrance than the grandmotherly baklava, my impetuous pavlova flits in like an aloof ballerina.
This is what I imagine sugar plum fairies would eat, when they are done flitting about a nutcracker and in the dreams of Clara. And how appropriate that would be, as the inspiration for the dessert is the dainty Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova of the late 19th and early 20th century. Although the source of debate for many years on whether the creation is attributed to Australia or New Zealand, the pavlova dessert is thought to have been created in the dancer’s honor during or after one of her tours to those countries in the 1920s.
I first experienced pavlova in Australia, though I barely remember it. I discovered a taste for beer when I was there, too (still eschewing big company American beer to this day) and ate many buttery sables. In my beer haze and butter bloat, I can see how I forgot my delicate pavlova: inexcusable at best! I wanted to re-create it for Christmas this year with tangy passion fruit, its gold flesh like the golden star on our Christmas tree, but couldn’t find any passion fruit to use. The pomegranate was an easy substitution, the glittery gems of arils like rubies.
Eat deemed this “the best dessert ever” while the kids had fun with the meringue bottoms and whipped cream. Peach demanded more, and luckily I had more in waiting. If serving this for a fancy Christmas dinner, you can prep the meringue and harvest the pomegranate arils about one to two days in advance. The only thing to do before serving is whip the cream and assemble. You will look even more spectacular than Anna Pavlova.
- Meringues: ¾ teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar
- ¾ tablespoon cornstarch
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 3 ounces egg whites (from 3-4 large eggs)
- pinch salt
- Topping: 1 cup pomegranate arils
- ¾ cup heavy whipping cream
- a few scratches of lemon zest
- Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.
- Mix vanilla and white vinegar in small bowl and set aside. Mix cornstarch and sugar in a another bowl and set aside.
- In a scrupulously clean mixing bowl, whip egg whites on low speed until frothy and holding soft peaks. Very slowly add the cornstarch-sugar mix on medium-high speed.
- After a few minutes and all of cornstarch-sugar mixture is incorporated and the egg whites are becoming glossy, slowly add the white vinegar-vanilla mixture as the mixer is running. Whip until stiff, glossy peaks form.
- Using two spoons (or a piping bag, if you're motivated), make small domes of egg whites on a baking sheet lined with parchment. My 7 domes were about 3 inches in diameter. Using the back of a spoon, create a divet in each dome, so you have a well to hold your whipped cream and pomegranate arils (or other fruit).
- Place in the oven and immediately turn heat down to 250 degrees F. Bake for 40-50 minutes total. Check to make sure there is no browning near the end of the 40 minutes. You want a dry, crisp outside crust. The middle remains soft and marshmallowy. Cool completely on a wire rack (you can move the parchment directly to the rack so as not to disturb the meringues).
- When ready to serve, whip heavy cream until medium peaks form. Since the meringues are very sweet, I chose not to sweeten the whipped cream.
- Place one meringue on a single plate, sprinkle with pomegranate arils, top with a dollop of whipped cream, then sprinkle with more pomegranate. Serve and tell stories of your favorite ballerina.