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Thursday, 16 February 2012

Mini Pavlova with Balsamic Strawberries and Cream

Remember when you were a kid and you thought that clouds were soft, cottony, pillows that you could float on, if only you could somehow reach them? Perhaps there was a castle there and a room full of toys. No? Just me? Well, I used to dream that I could go there in my sleep and I'd never have to do chores, like sweeping, ever again. It was glorious. Then I lost my Les Miserables soundtrack and forgot all about it.

Now, of course, I understand that clouds are nothing more than water droplets suspended in the atmosphere. Here on earth, we have meringue. My favourite thing about this recipe is watching simple egg whites transform into velvety, billowing, meringue clouds. When baked, the meringue becomes slightly crisp on the outside and soft like a marshmallow on the inside. Top them with a fluffy dollop of whipped cream and just about any fruit you like, then serve one to your boyfriend in exchange for sweeping the floors. You'll be in heaven.

Makes about 16 Pavlova

For the meringue:
8 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
2 tsp corn starch
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp white wine vinegar

For the topping:
2 cups chopped strawberries
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup strawberry coulis (see recipe)
1 cup whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a bowl, combine the strawberries, balsamic, and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Set aside while you make the meringues (you can also do this step ahead of time and keep the berries in the fridge until you're ready to serve).

Preheat oven to 300F. Line two baking trays with parchment paper. Trace circles onto the parchment paper using a drinking glass that is about 10 cm in diameter. You should be able to fit 6-8 circles onto each parchment, depending on the size or your baking trays.

Combine the sugar and corn starch in a bowl. In a separate bowl or stand-up mixer, beat the egg whites on high (it's important to use a clean, dry bowl). While beating, gradually add the sugar/cornstarch one spoonful at a time. Continue to beat until the mixture is glossy and forms stiff peaks, about 5 minutes. Add the vanilla and vinegar and whip briefly to incorporate.

With a spoon or your fingertip, place a small dot of meringue under each corner of the parchment paper. This will help it stick to the baking tray and make it easier to sculpt the meringues. Spoon about 3/4 cup of meringue onto each circle. Using the back of a spoon, make a small indentation in each meringue to make room for the filling. Place the baking trays on the centre rack in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Turn the oven off and let sit in the oven for another 30 minutes until the meringues are golden. Remove and transfer to a rack to cool.

Whip the cream with the remaining two tablespoons of sugar and vanilla. To serve, top each meringue with the whipped cream, a spoonful of strawberries, and drizzle of strawberry coulis. 

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