After several days of idyllic spring weather, Easter was a day of torrential rainstorms. Not good for the new spring dress I had planned on wearing to church, nor the Easter egg hunt (moved to the parish hall), but pleasant for the quiet day we spent at home reading, cooking, and playing with Nick post-service.
Because my parents were on the way, we didn't have guests over this year, so the menu was simple: a small pork roast, rubbed with herbs de Provence before roasting, green beans, and a recipe I've been agitating to make since it appeared in the December 2008 issue of Bon Appetit: Rösti-style Potato Latkes with Rosemary and Brown Butter Applesauce.
The pork roast and green beans were fine, the rösti butter-wonderful (despite falling apart--one day I'll get a rosti out in one piece), but the rosemary & brown butter applesauce was pure bliss.
My obsession for adding savory herbs to sweet foods only seems to intensify with each new experiment. Turns out that the marriage of rosemary and apples is a harmonious one, and the addition of the browned butter made the nuptials heaven in a spoon. The recipe called for running the applesauce through a food mill, but I prefer a chunky sauce, so once the apples were tender, I gave them a once-over with the potato masher and called it quits.
Now, to dessert: Cheap, easy, and gorgeous, pavlova is one of my top dessert dates. I usually stick with a wooden spoon for spreading the meringue into a circle or rectangle, but since it was a celebratory dinner (albeit a small family one), I rummaged through my box of decorating supplies for a large tip and piped my rectangle. This is not cake decorating: all that you need to do is aim and squirt, overlapping as much as you like. This was not a low-calorie meal, but I like that pavlovas are a balance of lightness (berries, egg whites) and indulgence (whipped cream). It's the perfect spring and summer splurge. Cheers!
Mixed Berry Pavlova
Note: I halved my recipe for Easter, since it was just me, Kevin, and Nick (enough for all of us plus leftovers for me :)). But most often I use double the proportions for all the ingredients below and spread to a 10-inch circle or 12-inch rectangle. Everything else is the same!
3 large egg whites
3/4 cup superfine granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons boiling water
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 cups assorted fresh berries, e.g., raspberries, blueberries, and sliced strawberries
Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a large baking sheet with foil.
In a large bowl with an electric mixer beat together whites, sugar, cornstarch, vinegar, and vanilla on low speed until just combined. Add boiling water; beat on high speed 3 to 5 minutes, or until mixture forms stiff, glossy peaks.
Spoon or pipe the meringue mixture onto baking sheet and spread into a (approximately) 7x4-inch rectangle or 5-inch circle. Bake Pavlova in middle of oven 10 minutes. Reduce temperature to 200°F. and bake Pavlova 40 minutes more. Turn off oven and let Pavlova stand in oven 1 hour. Transfer Pavlova to a rack and cool completely. (Pavlova will be hard on outer surface and soft inside.)
Just before serving, whip the cream in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until it holds soft peaks; spread over Pavlova. Mound fruit on top of whipped cream. Makes 4 servings.
Separating Eggs 101:
When making certain dishes, like the meringue for this pavlova, you have to separate egg yolks from the egg whites. It's a bit tricky (and messy) at first, but once you get the hang of it, it's quick and simple.
Step 1: Using a single, sharp movement, crack the egg on the side of a bowl, as close to the middle of the shell as possible.
Step 2: Hold the egg in both hands and use your thumbs to gently break the shell in half over the bowl. Turn the shells upright and allow the white to fall into the bowl.
Step 3: Tilt the shells towards each other and slip the egg yolk from one shell to the other so that any remaining egg white falls into the bowl, taking care not to break the yolk. Continue until only the yolk remains. Tip the yolk into a separate bowl and discard the shells.
Note: If you're separating whites for meringues, make sure you don't get any of the yolk in the egg whites; the whites will sit in a puddle at the bottom of the bowl, no matter how much beating.