So, I have to confess to never, ever having eaten a pavlova made by a real pastry chef. Once, my friend Helena took me to a fancy market when I was visiting her Vancouver to show me the beautiful pavlovas that they made there, but we just admired them. My point is that I think think that this pavlova is really delicious, but I am hardly a pavlova expert. I have just made a lot of citrus curd last winter and the leftover egg white situation has led me into the wonderful world of meringue, macaroons and other deserts that call for multiple egg whites . Like the macaroon, Pavlova is gluten free without any adaptation. Yay! Although I read many recipes to figure out how it is best done, I am still not sure that I excecuted the pavlova exactly as you are supposed to. However, I am certain that the combination and balance of flavours in this recipe is very good and I am proud of myself. I used the last of the Gabriola orchard plum marmalade that chris made for our wedding, which was very tart and plays nicely with the sweet anise and the rich almond. If you are in NYC, the Italian prune plums are in the markets right now. This pavlova would be wonderful with prune plums made into red wine and plum jam from the ricotta plum tart recipe. Of course, you could always just use store bought preserves and tarten them up with lemon juice.
Pavlova was invented in honour of the ballerina of the same name by a chef from Australia or New Zealand. The two countries seem to have an argument about that point. The desert is fluffy and beautiful and delicate like a ballet costume with a lot of tulle on it. It is a big fluffy pile of merigne that is baked and then topped with whipped creme and fresh fruit (or in this case plum preserves). The simplicity of the basic desert lends itself well to any flavour combination that catches your fancy.
ANISE PAVLOVA WITH PLUM PRESERVES AND ALMOND CREAM
- 4 egg whites (at room temperature)
- 1 and 1/4 cup confectioners sugar (aslo known as castor, icing or powdered sugar)
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon anise seed, crushed into powder
- A generous cup of very tart plum preserves (if your preserves are too sweet, tarten them up with lemon juice)
- A splash or two of Sambuca (or some other anise flavoured booze)
- 1 cup of cold heavy cream
- 1 more tablespoon of confectioners sugar
- a capful of almond extract
- 1/2 cup blanched sliced almonds, toasted
- Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.
- Trace and cut out a 7 inch circle of parchment paper and place it on a baking sheet.
- Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time and continue beating until stiff shiny peaks form. Test the meringue by rubbing a bit between your fingers. If it feels gritty beat it some more.
- Beat in the anise seeds.
- Sprinkle the cornstarch and vinegar on top and gently fold them into the eggs.
- Pour the meringue into the center of your parchment paper and spread it gently to fill the circle. Shape it like a bowl so that there is a dip in the middle to hold the fruit and cream later.
- Bake for an hour and then check it. It should be dry on the outside and very a pale creamy color. If it s not done bake it for up to another 15 minutes.
- When it is done leave it in the oven, turn the heat off and prop the oven door open. Let it cool totally before disturbing it. You can make it a day ahead of time and just leave it be in your oven if you like.
- When you are ready to serve the pavlova, whisk the plum preserves and sambuca together and spread it on top of the baked meringue. whip the heavy cream along with a bit of confectioners sugar and almond extract and dollop that on top of the plums. Sprinkle toasted almonds on top and serve!