Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Pavlova, my Love

My love for baking and making treats has recently been reinvigorated... an addiction to Unique Sweets on the Cooking Channel helped it along. So I've been baking a bit. Somewhere along the way... on Pinterest perhaps... I found a recipe for Pavlova - which is essentially a large meringue cookie that you cover in whipped cream and sugar'd fruit.

It sounded really yummy, sooo... I gave it a go. 

Everything seemed to work out ok with the meringue (I was so very careful not to get a single drop of egg yolk in with the whites) and they came out as fluffy little white pillows.

The final assemblage - though I only used strawberries - looked very pretty. 

Then I chomped in... mmmm, Heaven! It was delicious! Like Strawberry Shortcake on sugar steroids!

I ended up mish-mashing two recipes and also adding vanilla, here's where I netted out:

NOTE: Almost no two Pavlova recipes are the same! In reading many recipes both in cookbooks and online, they vary quite a bit. Some call for lemon juice while others call for vinegar. Some use salt, some don't. Some say to fold in the vinegar and cornstarch at the end, barely mixing afterward, some say to beat the meringue for 5-10 minutes after adding them. Almost none call for vanilla, but I couldn't imagine how bland they'd be without it.  The baking temps and times are all over the map too. 

I'm not sure if that means it's hard to screw it up - or if it's hard to get a successful meringue. All signs point to the latter... though I think mine tasted pretty damn good.

3 eggs
1 cup superfine sugar (I processed regular sugar in food proc)
2 tsp cornstarch
3/4 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla

Cut up your favorite fruit, sprinkle with 1 tsp - 1 tablespoon of sugar and let it "marinade" from an hour to overnight.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line cookie sheet(s) with parchment paper.

First, whisk eggs to soft, wet peaks. Slowly add 1 tablespoon of sugar at a time, beating in between to get sugar to dissolve. Save 1 tablespoon of sugar to mix with cornstarch and vinegar - mix those together and add to the mixture, then add the vanilla. Whisk for another 5-10 minutes - to get nice stiff and glossy meringue. 

To ensure the sugar is dissolved, you can rub the meringue between your fingers - you should not feel any graininess. I did this and time and time again, felt graininess, until I finally gave up, decided it was as good as it was going to get, and baked it anyway! I think the key here is castor or superfine sugar, which should blend better.

Spread meringue onto parchment paper in circles about 4" diameter, 1" high. (All the other recipes say to draw circles on the parchment... I find that unnecessary as I tend to be a "winger" wherever I can :)

Bake for 25 minutes at 300 degrees, then turn off oven but leave in for another 25 minutes (again, many other recipes call for longer times, lower oven, etc... but this worked well for the size I cooked).

Once the meringues are completely cool, top with whipped cream and fruit. Dig in!

Best to eat them within a day or two. 

I think I could eat this every day, especially with the abundance of fresh fruit this time of year... 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Subscriptions are the New Black

I can't get over all the new "subscription" services. I mean, I remember the Panty of the Month Club (I wasn't a member, but how do you forget something like that) - so it's not new, it's just being taken to new heights with some very creative business models.

I was ecstatic when I got a card last November informing me that my very dear friend Daniela had gotten me a gift subscription to Birchbox for my birthday.  Birchbox sends you an array of deluxe beauty samples. HELLLOOOO, speaking to my heart as someone who chooses a hotel based on the toiletries they offer!

But not only do they send awesome sample, they make it adorable. That pink tissue paper just makes me smile and I have yet to recycle one of the boxes, I save them - for what, I'm not sure, they're just too nice to part with.

And then I learned about Love With Food - again, samples of delicious treats delivered to your door. I still think about the Pecan Divinity that was in the box a while back.

Now you can get all kinds of things via monthly subscription - from kids' craft projects to man stuff (oh, and Birchbox now has a monthly box for men... makes me wonder, does anyone use the term Metrosexual anymore?) - you can find it all.  

And if you can't find it... well, perhaps you have yourself a business opportunity right there!  And guess what - there's a site for that too! will help you manage your own subscription service.