Pavlova zen and my hive

With a trio of family birthdays to celebrate, the house was packed to the rafters. Fizzy wine bottles were popping and we all talked over each other (nothing new there). We began the evening by chowing down on a selection of Bruny Island Cheese Co cheeses and some fat, salty olives.

At one point I was in another room in the house, collecting something or other.
I managed to stop and still myself (not an easy task) and listen to the hubbub. It was a loud and happy buzz, which made me think. This is my hive, my source of happiness. It’s not always harmonious (we ain’t a cult for goodness sakes) but even when our voices are raised in gleeful disagreement, there is no better sound.

To help celebrate three birthdays there were fittingly, three desserts. The pavlova, Sister 2’s amazeballs baked cheesecake and some decadently iced chocolate cupcakes.

The Yak adores pavlova and it is a super gluten free dessert. This rather large version is as light as a unicorns tinkle and as fluffy as a fairy tutu. It has a crisp outer shell and a marshmallow interior that is synonymous with a good pavlova. (Well, that’s how we like them here, feel free to disagree.) My very favourite fruit to accompany this dessert is that somewhat saucy, acidic passionfruit. This crazy fruit brings a wonderful acidic zing that perfectly counterbalances the sugary hit of the pav.

I pride myself on my meringue skill. (This is up there with my other useful talent of attracting the attention of random crazy strangers in the street.) You may have heard this all before but for what it’s worth, here are my top meringue tips.

1. Don’t use new eggs, older egg white works better.
2. Bring the eggs to room temperature.
3. Make sure your bowl (stainless steel or glass) is very clean and totally dry. Water is your enemy at this point.
4. No egg yolk in your whites.
5. Beat your eggs to a stiff peak before adding the sugar, always add that pinch of salt first.
6. Add your sugar slowly, then beat until the sugar is dissolved and no longer gritty. Do not rush this process. You will not regret this, this is the Zen of Pavlova. Patience is a virtue when it comes to meringue. This is not a job you can rush if you want to achieve that stiff, white glossy goop that is synonymous with this much beloved dessert.

PAVLOVA

WHAT YOU NEED
6 egg whites, room temperature
Pinch of salt
2 cups caster sugar, sifted
1/4 tsp vanilla bean powder or 1/2 tsp vanilla paste or essence
1 tbl cornflour
2 tsp vinegar

HOW YOU DO IT
Heat the oven to 180C.
Place baking paper on a large tray and draw a 22 cm circle for a flatter pavlova or a 20cm circle for a taller version. (It will spread a little.) Turn the paper pencil side down on the baking tray.
Beat the egg whites and pinch of salt with an electric beater on low until they stand in firm peaks.
Keep beating the egg white on low adding the sugar a tablespoon at a time.
Once all of the sugar is added, continue beating on a medium speed until the meringue is no longer gritty to the touch. This takes about 5 minutes or so.
Fold through the vanilla, cornflour and vinegar.
Spread the mixture with a large spoon onto the prepared tray and place in the oven. Drop temperature down to 130 (120 fan forced) and bake for one hour. Rotate every 20 minutes to ensure even baking and colouring.
Turn off the oven, leave the door ajar and let the pavlova cool down in the oven.
Expect cracks on the surface and the pavlova may collapse a little as it cools, don’t panic, this is all ok.
Topped with whipped cream and your favourite fruit. Think passionfruit, strawberries, mangoes, nectarines, peaches and kiwi fruit. Use one fruit or make it a fruity salad.

A Cheergerm adaptation based on a crazy New Zealand teatowel recipe, a Margaret Fulton recipe and an online Annabel Langbein recipe

IMG_4816


http://www.annabel-langbein.com/recipes/fantasy-pavlova/62/

http://www.brunyislandcheese.com.au/


Pinata Rage and Coconut Macaroons

It was the longest piñata hit in history. This gaily coloured Mexican bombonierre was seemingly made of cast iron. Possibly forged in the smelters of dwarven folk from the Kingdom under the Lonely Mountain (a Tolkien reference to all you non Hobbit loving peeps).

Child after strong armed child faced this monster. Bashing it with the supressed rage of youngsters against the iron fists of their parental controllers. Sadly, it was to no avail.

Finally, deliverance came in the guise of the smallest and youngest child (an angelic blonde haired 4 year old). It is difficult to explain the collective surprise at witnessing this beautiful young person flying into, what will henceforth be known as, ‘piñata rage’.

There was violent and assured bashing, followed by targeted smashing. The paper mâché split open and Mexican manna fell from the heavens. All was once again right with the world.

Kid 1 came up to me afterwards, proclaiming ‘The bowl of holiness has been split!’ His hands overflowing with sweet loot, some whole and some crushed. Not caring that they were in a less than perfect state, he snarfled them all in record time.

These coconuts macaroons may not have been a piñata full of sweet and lollylike goodness but they were still a huge hit with Kid 1. Being gluten free, the Yak was also a fan.

Some folk may say the macaroon is the poor, tenement living cousin to the more difficult to make and penthouse living macaron. I tell all those people to rack off. Yes, the macaroon has only 4 ingredients and yes, they are quick and yes, you don’t have to cure the egg whites for 2 days. So, yes, maybe after careful consideration ‘those people’ have a point. But as that overused cooking TV show catchphrase goes, ‘I made them with love’. (I don’t often cook with hate in my heart, although sometimes, I have been know to give a misbehaving cake batter a stern glance or two).

Floral vanilla and chewy coconut, reminiscent of a Polynesian wonderland. Close your eyes as you bite into their crispy exterior and you could be lying on a beach in Tahiti. They may easy peasey lemon squeezy but they are bloody delicious.

COCONUT MACAROONS

WHAT YOU NEED
2 egg whites
Pinch salt
100g (1/2 cup) caster sugar
125g desiccated coconut (or shredded)
1/4 tsp vanilla bean paste (or pure vanilla essence)

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat the oven to 150C and line two baking trays with baking paper.
Place the egg whites and salt in a medium sized bowl and beat them until they are stiff.
Gradually beat in the sugar and fold in the remaining ingredients.
Drop the mixture in teaspoonfuls about 5cm apart on the trays (as I did) or use a piping bag with a 1cm tip.
Bake for about 20 minutes, rotating halfway through. When the macaroons are dry and cooked, they will be a pale, pinky-gold.
Cool on wire racks and store airtight, Makes about 20.

Recipe from Ladies, A Plate by Alexa Johnston.

A quick shout out to the lovely chicks from I Need a Feed and Vegas Hungry Girl for nominating me for some blogger awards lately. Not sure when I will get to that but in the meantime, just wanted to give you the links to their delightful blogs.

http://ineedafeed.wordpress.com

http://vegashungrygirl.wordpress.com