So a lot of people have asked me when I’m going to post something for Pesach, which apparently is coming, so hide yo’ bread, hide yo’ crackers, and hide yo’ cookies. Yeah I just came up with that, I’m hilarious like that.
The problem is, I’m not really cooking for Pesach, so I don’t really have much to post…I know major bummer, right?
But wait – if I have nothing to post, why did I drag you out here, taking you away from your much needed Pesach cleaning?! Ay, l’mafraya, must be I have something to post.
Pavlova’s are basically meringues that are topped with some fruit. They’re a popular Australian dessert named after famed Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, and in Australian ballets the crowd actually throws pavlova’s on stage at the dancer instead of roses, as a sign of respect. Ok that last thing I made up, but they should definitely do that, and I can pretty much guarantee ticket prices will skyrocket…just saying.
All right, so let’s start with the meringue part, which by itself can be delicious as little meringue “cookies,” throw in some chocolate chips, and we could be done this here post, but no! I say let’s move on, and go further, let’s make pavlovas…ok where was I…um yeah, so about the meringue. As simple as a meringue might be, it’s actually pretty complex. As we all know, we take some egg whites, and whip ‘em to hell, and voila, you have yourself some foamy substance, that can now be baked right? Well what causes the egg whites to stay put? Why can’t you do the same thing to water? Well I’ll tell you, it all has to do with the protein. (Proteeeeeeeeeen)
Proteins are these big curled up molecules, that have different parts to it, and these protein molecules can be disrupted and changed in many different ways, one of them being pure physical power. By whisking egg whites, you are literally forcing the protein molecules to open up and form new bonds with one another, and by doing so, you eventually end up trapping air in protein reinforced bubbles, thus forming a foam. Plain egg whites don’t really taste that good, so we tend to add sugar, which actually hinders, and helps the formation of these bubbles. But we’ll delve into that another time.
Besides sugar, a common addition to egg whites when making a meringue is tartaric acid. It’s basically an acid in powdered form, but truth is any old acid will work (like vinegar, lemon juice, coca cola, battery acid), and the science behind it will astound you.
So I’m sure you were asking yourself, “if the broken proteins are re-forming bonds, and therefore making little bubbles that hold together air inside, why don’t the proteins on the different sides of the bubble break down, and bond to each other Mr Smartypants??” Well that’s actually a great question, and if you were to just whisk away, that would eventually happen (the bubbles would collapse, and would stop being a cohesive frothy mass).
So to prevent that we add an acid. The acid prevents the sulfar bonds from forming a pretty strong disulfide bond by adding additional protons to cover up the vacant sulfer atoms. So basically, the acid weakens the ability of the proteins to bond to one another, which is exactly what we want.
Ok now that you’re asleep, and we’ve gotten that out of the way, I got this recipe from the amateur gourmet, and I had a litany of egg whites (after making the challah). Dump the egg whites with the cream of tartar into a mixing bowl, and start whipping on medium-low. In the meantime, combine your sugar and cornstarch and slowly add the mixture and crank it up to as high as it goes, and continue mixing until stiff peaks form, about 4-5 minutes.
Then, if you want to be fancy, spoon the egg whites into a ziploc bag, cut off the corner, and pipe into the shape you desire. We went with little round spirals, but if you want you can just dump a heap of egg whites on the baking sheet, and don’t worry, I won’t tell the fancy police. Now to bake them, you want to bake them pretty gently, like at 200-250 for 45 minutes to an hour.
And now onto the topping.
I adapted this recipe from Kosher Gourmet Cooking. It’s from a sour cream tart, which I’ve made and recommend, but just used the berry part of the tart for this thing-a-ma-bob.
Start by dissolving 1 tablespoon of cornstarch in 2 tablespoons of water. Put two cups of really any berries you want (I went with strawberries, and blueberries), with 1/2 cup of sugar, and 1/4 water, and the water-cornstarch mix. Stir and simmer until thick, about 5 minutes, let cool and that’s it.
Ok, now when you’re ready to serve, just top the meringues with cooled the berry sauce, and top with some whipped cream if you so desire.
All right, so you’ve made it this far, kudos to you. This was quite the lengthy post, and I had even have more to write! Talk about verbal diarrhea. Well thanks for hanging in there.
Also sorry, for the lack of pictures, I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me.
Now for Pesach, I have no idea if cream of tartar are kosher for Pesach, so I also included how to make it with vinegar…If you want to make it with battery acid, you’re on your own, or if you really want a trick to avoid using an acid, you can break out your old copper bowl, and make the meringues in that, it surprisingly does the same thing. Confused? Good.
For the meringue:
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar OR 2 teaspoons white vinegar
- 1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup (6 ounces, about 6) large egg whites, preferably room temperature
- Pinch salt
- Preheat oven to 250, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. If using vinegar (and not cream of tartar), then combine the vinegar and vanilla in a small bowl and set aside.
- Combine the sugar and cornstarch in a separate bowl
- Whip the egg whites, cream of tartar (if using) and pinch of salt, starting on low, and gradually increasing to medium.
- Gradually add the sugar-cornstarch mix, and when completely added (add the vinegar-vanilla mix if using) and increase to the highest setting, and let it rip for about 4-5 minutes, until stiff peaks form. (the way you check for that, is take the whisk, dip it into the mix, and turn it upside down, and the “peak” should be stiff, not too stiff, but somewhat stiff, kind of like a curved bird’s beak)
- Spoon or pipe onto baking sheet, and bake for 45-60 minutes, making sure not to over bake.
For the berry topping:
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 cups fresh or frozen berries
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- Combine the cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of water
- Put cornstarch-water mix, berries, sugar, water, and let simmer until thick, about 5 minutes. (if it’s too thick, just add some more water), and cool.