Have you ever thought, "Gosh. You know, I would really like to find a recipe where I can use four different types of sugar. Alas--such a dessert does not exist. Woe is me." ??
Well, you can relax. This recipe delivers your wildest fantasies! This particular pavlova uses superfine sugar, granulated sugar, confectioner's sugar, and brown sugar. It reminds me of that quote from Elf, "We Elves try to stick to the four main food groups: Candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup."
Pavlova originated in New Zealand, and is named after the famous ballerina Anna Pavlova. It's not hard to see why it would be named after a ballerina. Pavlovas are the dessert embodiment of a frilly tutu: Crunchy outside to the touch, but floaty and light. The nice thing about Pavlovas is their versatility. If you don't want to make a layer cake, you don't have to. You could spread it into a ring (like a tutu!), make it into individual islands (like a tutu!), or some other such creation (probably still like a tutu!).
Two-Layer Berry and Brown Sugar Pavlova (modified slightly from this recipe at Epicurious.com)
-Confectioners sugar for dusting
-1 cup superfine granulated sugar
-1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
-1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
-1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
-2 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
-3/4 cup egg whites (from 5 to 6 large eggs) at room temperature 30 minutes
-1 1/2 pounds strawberries, trimmed and quartered
-1 pound blackberries
-2 tablespoons granulated sugar
-Optional: 1 1/2 tablespoons orange flavored liquor (I used Triple Sec)
-Optional: Slices of kiwi (Kiwi feels quintessential to pavlova, but was not included in this recipe...so, I put it in! And it was delicious.)
-1 cup chilled heavy cream
-1/3 cup chilled sour cream
1. Preheat oven to 275°F with rack in middle. Lightly butter 3 (8-inch) round cake pans, then dust sides of pans with confectioners sugar, knocking out excess. Line bottom of each pan with a round of parchment paper. (**NOTE: I do not have two 8" cake pans, only 9". So, I used two 9" pans (and put more in them), and then made several individual meringue islands.**)
2. Pulse superfine sugar, brown sugar, and cornstarch in a food processor until well combined.
3. Stir together vanilla and vinegar in a small bowl.
4. Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt using an electric mixer at medium speed until they hold soft peaks. Increase speed to medium-high and add sugar mixture 1 tablespoon at a time. After all sugar has been added, beat 1 minute more. Add vinegar mixture, then beat at high speed until meringue is glossy and holds stiff peaks, about 5 minutes. Spoon meringue into pans (about 2 1/2 cups per pan) and smooth tops.
5. Bake until meringues have a crisp crust and feel dry to the touch, about 1 hour (insides will still be marshmallow-like).
6. Turn oven off and prop door open slightly with a wooden spoon. Cool meringues in oven 1 hour. (Meringues may sink slightly and crack while cooling.)
7. Run knife along sides of cake pans and carefully turn meringues out of pans. Carefully peel off parchment (meringues will be fragile and the crust may crack further). Carefully turn right side up. (**NOTE: When they say "carefully," they really mean it. These things crack if you look at them the wrong way. Both of my layers almost split completely in half just from having their full weight on the palm of my hand. SO. Be really, REALLY careful!**)
Macerate fruit while meringues cool:
1. Toss berries with sugar and let stand at room temperature until ready to use (up to 1 hour).
1. Beat heavy cream with sour cream using an electric mixer until it just holds soft peaks. Put 1 meringue on a serving plate and spread one third of whipped cream over it. Spoon one third of fruit (with juice) over top. Repeat with remaining meringues, cream, and fruit.
Note: Meringues can be frozen, individually wrapped, up to 1 month; thaw, still wrapped, at room temperature for at least 2 hours.
Verdict: This was the cake I decided to make for my birthday, and....I LOVED it. I wasn't too sure about how I'd like the dryness of a meringue cake (I thought it would make my teeth jingle), but it was just melt-in-your-mouth fabulousness. It was kind of like eating a crunchy marshmallow, but with whipped cream and boozy berries. Holy eff, dudes. Awesome. Happy birthday to me.