Monday, July 22, 2013

Mini Pavlovas With Lemon Curd and Blueberries

This is, without a doubt, one of the best desserts I have ever had.  It's sweet and tangy, light and refreshing, and all around delicious.  If you've never had a pavlova, they are like a mix between a meringue and a marshmallow.  Basically a marshmallow with a slightly crunchy exterior (or a meringue with a soft pillow-y center).  You really can't go wrong with that.  The best part is that a pavlova is not going to look perfect.  It's going to crack, and it's going to kind of cave in in the middle so it's a pretty stress free dessert for a dinner party.  Plus, you can make the pavlovas a couple days in advance (as long as you store them in an air tight container) and put the toppings on right before you're going to serve them.

Mini Pavlova With Lemon Curd

What you need:

4 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1/2 T cornstarch
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp white vinegar

Lemon Curd
4 egg yolks
Zest of 1 small lemon
1/3 cup lemon juice
6 T sugar
4 T unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces

What you do:

Lemon Curd
To make the lemon curd combine the egg yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan.  Whisk to combine, then stir constantly over medium heat with a wooden spoon.  Cook until the mixture is thick and will coat the back of the spoon.  Remove from heat and stir in butter one piece at a time until the consistency is smooth.  Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and cover with plastic wrap (making sure that the wrap touches the surface of the curd to prevent a skin from developing) and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Preheat the oven to 275* and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Using a drinking glass as a stencil, trace small circles onto the parchment paper with a pencil and flip the parchment paper over so the pencil marks are on the bottom of the paper.

Meanwhile, whip the egg whites in a very clean metal bowl with very clean metal beaters.  When the egg whites have reached a soft peak consistency add the sugar a few tablespoons at a time.  While you're doing this increase the speed of the mixers gradually, so they are at full speed when you are done adding the sugar.   Continue to whip the egg whites until they form stiff peaks then add the cornstarch.  Stop the mixer and add the vanilla and vinegar and beat for another 30 seconds or so to full mix them into the egg white mixture.  You want to make sure the sugar as fully dissolved into the egg whites, so take a small bit and rub it between your thumb and finger.  If it feels really grainy you need to whip the egg whites more, but if it feels fairly smooth then you're good to go.

Either pipe the meringue onto the circles you traced, or spoon it on and smooth out the meringue using the backside of a spoon.  Either way, make sure you build it up a little on the sides so you'll have a small bowl to put the lemon curd in.  

Bake for about 50 minutes until the pavlovas are lightly browned, are dry to the touch and sound hollow when tapped.  Like I said before, it's fine if the crust cracks.  Turn the oven off but leave the pavlovas inside the oven to cool completely.  If you aren't going to serve them right away then store them in an airtight container. 

To serve, put a spoon full of lemon curd on top of the pavlova then top with homemade whipped cream and blueberries.  This dessert was perfect for a hot summer evening.  The tartness of the lemon curd perfectly counteracted the sweetness of the pavlova.  I can't wait to try this with different fruit curds.  I'm thinking of trying raspberry next, with either a chocolate pavlova or a chocolate whipped cream.  And this fall or winter I'm DEFINITELY making a mint pavlova with chocolate mousse.  Mmmm, I can't wait!

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