Thursday, April 11, 2013

{ a breath } conquering meringue & { a bite } pistachio pavlovas with raspberries and lemon curd



I push the raspberries and lemon curd to the side eager to move onto the main event. The outer layer gives way with a light crunching sound as my teeth make contact with the slightly softer middle. The faintest warmth of vanilla dances on my tongue as I complete my first bite into my first attempt at homemade meringue. Success. Mission complete. I savor the hint of sweetness and mentally check off "Learn to make meringue" from my to-do list. Next?


Between a full-time newspaper design job and cooking/styling/shooting/writing for this website, I sometimes take on freelance photography gigs whenever I can. I love freelance shooting because I learn so much in the process. This is one of the lovely things about living a creative life: I get hired to shop, cook, style, shoot and sometimes write about things I might not otherwise ever get around to doing. Last month, it was for this Passover story. I was hired as a freelance cook/food stylist and photographer to make the recipe at home and then photograph it. It resulted in two firsts: lemon curd (which I blogged about immediately after shooting the job) and meringue.

The story's author had been making Pistachio Pavlovas with Lemon Curd and Berries for years for her family. She uses this recipe from Cooking LIght magazine. I had never heard of pavlovas and I had never made meringue. So I researched. A lot.

Behind the scenes of a photo shoot. I washed and separated each raspberry, eating, er, removing all the squashed and bruised ones. Then I placed each raspberry into the nest one at a time to get the perfect angle for each berry.


And I concluded that I could tweak the recipe to better suit my tastes since, not being Jewish, I didn't want to spend money on kosher products when I had their non-kosher equivalents already in my pantry. My tweaks were minor enough that the end result would be indistinguishable from the original in the final photograph. 

This was a great exercise and I felt so accomplished when I finished and had these gorgeous little nests of berries, curd and meringue to show for the effort. 

Meringue no longer intimidates me and I think I am now ready to attempt and conquer Parisian macarons. I can hardly wait!

Pistachio Pavlovas with Raspberries and Lemon Curd

With a little help from Google, I found a lot of good advice for making meringue. The number one tip I found in common with all the blogs and magazines I came across was this: in order to have a successful meringue making experience your bowl, beaters and spatula need to be 100% grease-free. One blogger I read who specializes in macarons, said she goes so far as to have a spatula and bowl designated exclusively for making meringue. Now that's hardcore! I simply used a white vinegar saturated paper towel to wipe down the interior of my stand mixer's bowl, my beaters and my spatula. Then I made sure that everything was completely dry before starting. Another great tip from Stephanie Jaworski of Joy of Baking is to add the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time and to continue beating after all the sugar is added until there is no grit when you place a dollop of the meringue between your fingers and rub them together. This part takes patience. I think I beat for a total of 15 minutes. As for the eggs themselves? Use the freshest eggs you can and make sure they are cold straight out of the refrigerator (the lemon curd will need room temperature eggs). For the curd, you will need a pot big enough to snugly hold your stainless steel or glass bowl without the bowl touching the water in the pot below. 
Inspired by Cooking Light and adapted from Joy of Baking
Serves 8

For the meringue
4 large egg whites
1 cup castor sugar (superfine baker's sugar - NOT to be confused with powdered sugar)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (I use bourbon vanilla)
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
1/3 cup chopped pistachios
For the lemon curd
3 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
juice of 3 lemons (at least 1/3 cup, mine gave me just shy of 1/2 cup)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature and cut into small cubes
2 tablespoons lemon zest (avoid the white pith)

2 (6-ounce) containers fresh raspberries
powdered sugar for dusting 

Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit

Cut parchment paper to fit 2 rimmed baking sheets. Draw four 4-inch circles centered on each parchment (I used my Quaker oatmeal container to trace around as it makes the perfect size!). Flip the parchment over and secure to the baking sheets (use masking tape or metal binder clips). Set aside.

Make the meringue
With the whisk attachment in place, add the eggs to the bowl of your stand mixer and beat on high until soft peaks form and hold. Keeping the mixer on high, begin adding sugar one tablespoon at a time waiting about 30 seconds between each addition. Continue to beat until the meringue is stiff and shiny. You want the sugar completely dissolved. Test this by  rubbing some meringue between your fingers. If it still feels gritty, continue beating and testing until the grittiness is gone. Beat in the vanilla. Remove the bowl from the mixer. Sprinkle the vinegar then the cornstarch over the meringue and use a rubber spatula to gently fold these in.

Divide the meringue between the eight circles and for an organic look, use the back of a tablespoon to spread the meringue to form the circle then make an indentation in the center so you form "nests" to hold the berries and curd. Alternately you could add the meringue to a piping bag fitted with a large round tip and starting in the center of the circle, pipe the meringue ending with a thicker circle in the outer edge to create a border to hold in the berries. Evenly sprinkle the pistachios over the meringue.

Bake for one hour, rotating the baking sheets after the first 30 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave the meringue nests in the oven for an additional 2 1/2 hours with the oven door closed to finish drying out. 

Make the curd
In the meantime, make the curd. Place a pot big enough to fit your stainless steel (or glass) bowl on the stove on medium high and add 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil. 

Add the eggs to a stainless steel bowl and whisk to break up the yolks. Add the sugar and lemon juice then place the bowl on the pot (the bottom of the bowl should NOT touch the water; if it does, remove some water). Reduce the heat to medium low so the water is gently boiling. 

Whisk the egg mixture continuously until an inserted candy thermometer registers 180 degrees Fahrenheit (careful not to let the thermometer touch the bottom of the bowl; I don't have a candy thermometer and use the beverage thermometer from Starbucks that I use when I make lattes). It might take 10-15 minutes of whisking but keep at it! Curd will thicken before your eyes to pudding consistency when it's reached the correct temperature. 

Remove bowl from pot and whisk in the butter and zest until smooth and well combined. To prevent a skin from forming on the surface of your curd while it cools, place plastic wrap over the bowl, pushing it down so that it makes contact with the surface of your curd. Push out any air bubbles. Allow to cool completely before transferring to a container for storage in the refrigerator. 

To assemble
Just before serving, divide the raspberries between the meringues and top with a couple tablespoons of the lemon curd. Finish by sprinkling powdered sugar over the pavlovas. Enjoy immediately.

Note: If you aren't eating all the meringues the day you make them, place the completely cooled, unadorned meringues in an airtight container and leave the container in a cool place in your kitchen. Assemble the meringue just before serving. The lemon curd can keep for about 10 days in the refrigerator.
13march20food_photo
The final photograph. Design by Gloria Orbegozo.

¡Buen Provecho!
Until next time …
Ani

6 comments:

Brandon @ Kitchen Konfidence said...

Great job with the UT article! These pavlovas look spectacular!

afotogirl said...

Thank you, Brandon!

Rosie @ Blueberry Kitchen said...

Your pavlovas look so gorgeous - stunning photos! I really love the idea of the lemon curd filling too!

afotogirl said...

Thank you, Rosie! I really loved the contrast of the lemon curd with the meringue. I'm now in love with lemon curd! LOL. Thanks for stopping by and saying hello, too!

Colette Just for Foodies said...

Pavlova w pistachio, 2 of my fav things. Great pics - I want to reach into my screen & take one!

afotogirl said...

Hello Colette! Welcome and thank you! I can't believe I've gone this long never having heard of pavlovas. I'm making them again, for sure. :)