Friday, December 30, 2011

Giant Christmas Pavlova!

Seriously.  No joke.  Biggest pavlova ever!  The size of the tire on my 4Runner.  Ok, maybe not quite that big.  But big.  It took up an entire cookie sheet and almost, almost, ran over the edges.  The recipe for the meringue was from Nigella Lawson's Feast.  I one and a halved the recipe, hers said it would serve 10 to 12.  We have hearty eaters in my family and I knew that there would be at least 15 of us at Christmas dinner.

While I was making this I was remembering the year Abby made a tower of cream puffs covered in caramelized sugar.  Christmas with the Griegs is go big or go home!  There had been talk about recreating the cream puffs in sugar cages but I decided I didn't want to transport over two dozen cream puffs and then stack them and then make caramel and drizzle it over a tower that could very easily fall down.  But I didn't want to make pies.  I thought I should make something that not everyone has had, something that could be done on Christmas day and something with WOW factor.  How do you think I did?

As long as you aren't afraid of making meringues this is a pretty simple dessert.  Just takes some time to whip all of the egg whites and then you have to bake it nice and slowly.  And it is best to let it cool slowly too.  We didn't have time for the slow cooling, I think it only sat in the oven for about 20 minutes before we rushed off in the car.  So the big meringue fell a bit and cracked.  But noting to worry about, just threw on some more whipped cream!

For the meringue:

12 egg whites at room temperature (if you don't have time to let them sit on the counter just carefully place the cold eggs in a bowl of warm water for about 10 minutes)
1 tsp. salt
4 3/4 cups sugar (if you can find superfine sugar that is better but if you can regular granulated sugar is fine)
8 tsp. cornstarch
4 tsp. white wine vinegar
2 tsp. vanilla extract

For the topping:

5 to 6 ripe kiwis
3 starfruit
1 pomegranate
3+ cups of raspberries
shredded unsweetened coconut

1 quart heavy cream
3 tbls. sugar

Preheat the oven to 350.  Line a cookie sheet (one with out edges is best) with parchment paper.

Whip the egg whites and salt until soft peaks form.  Beat in the sugar by the tablespoon , yes slow I know, until the meringue is stiff and shiny.  Sprinkle the cornstarch, vinegar and vanilla over the surface of the meringue and mix lightly to incorporate.  Mound the meringue on the baking sheet in a circle.  You want the edges to be higher than the center, like a nest.  Smooth the top and the sides with a spatula.  Put the meringue in the oven and IMMEDIATELY reduce the temperature to 300.  Let it bake for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.  It will have risen and cracked a little on the top and along the edges.  If the meringue is not dry and crispy on the outside give it a little longer.  Turn off the oven and open the door slightly.  Leave to cool completely.  If you are in a rush just be aware that it will crack and fall a bit but you can cover it up with the whipped cream.

While the meringue is baking slice the star fruit and the kiwi.  The easiest way to get the seeds out of the pomegranate, according to my brother, is to slice it in half and let it sit in a bowl of cold water then break it apart in the water and the seeds will fall to the bottom of the bowl.  This way your hands don't get stained from the juice.  Just strain the seeds in a colander and then spread on a paper towel to blot away the excess water and get rid of any extra parts of the membrane.  I like to put all of the fruit in separate containers until I am ready to serve it.

When the meringue has cooled completely and you are ready to serve it whip the cream with 3 tbls of sugar. If you have a serving platter that is large enough carefully slide the meringue on the parchment paper onto the serving platter then use a knife to cut the parchment paper away from the edge of the meringue.  If you or your grandmother don't have a giant glass serving platter just leave it on the cookie sheet.  Spoon the whipped cream over the meringue then layer on the fruit.  Top with a few hand fulls of coconut and wow the crowd!

We had thought about just letting everyone dig in with spoons, pass the pavlova style, but decided to cut it in to columns and then into pieces from those.  If that makes any sense.  Or another way to think about it, the way Flatbread pizza cuts their pizzas.  

Big thanks to Lucina and Ali for sharing their pictures and to Jake for dealing with the pomegranate and for driving while I clutched the edges of the cookie sheet hoping we didn't hit any pot hole or frost heaves!

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