Monday, May 9, 2011

Mother's Day and seconds on dessert: Coconut Pavlova with Strawberries

Happy Belated Mothers' Day to you.  Mine was lovely.  My parents were in town and my in-laws came over for Sunday lunch.  When you've been married almost 27 years, your parents have no trouble hanging out together.  So, I did cook on Mothers' Day, but I figure I owe both of them a meal or two (or two hundred).  Greg grilled burgers and turkey burgers, I made sweet potato fries, heated baked beans (yes, I can make them from scratch but Bush's Grillin' Beans are pretty tasty and super easy) and my mother-in-law made good old-fashioned potato salad with mayonnaise, hard boiled eggs, and pickles.  Three things I will never touch, so this she did for her son (I reminded him it wasn't his birthday or Fathers' Day) and I was grateful I did not have to grin and bear it through potato salad preparation.  Let's face it, I wouldn't and couldn't do it.  I'm on record that if you have me over and you've slipped mayonnaise in something I'll try to get it down, but if you serve me old-school potato or pasta salad there's just now way I can be a good guest.  We all have our quirks.  I have more than my share.  My mother-in-law has known this for about 30 years so she's tried to introduce my girls to all the things I can not abide.  Kelly's more of a trooper than Sara, but there will be no judgement from me.  Judge lest you not be judged.  

Coconut Pavlova with Strawberries
Every good celebration deserves dessert, even if it is served just after noon.  One of my favorite desserts is the Australian Pavlova, a big meringue filled with whipped cream and topped with fruit.  Sara and I bought three new cookbooks during and after our stay in Durham, a foodie heaven.  "Chicken and Egg, A Memoir of Suburban Homesteading" (yes, the author raises her own chickens)gives us this new twist on a classic.  The addition of the coconut to the meringue became something wonderful and toasty.  The addition of nonfat plain Greek yogurt to the whipped cream provide a tangy contrast to the sweet meringue and coconut.  The texture of this dessert is fabulous.  The big meringue (be sure to make yours smaller than your serving dish) has a marshmallow-y center and the cool whipped cream and succulent fruit.....yummm.  Once assembled the dessert should be eaten immediately.  I made the meringue on a rainy day before serving so I simply kept it in my oven to keep it crisp.  If you don't have a spare oven or you need to employ the oven you've got,  wrap your meringue tightly or store in some airtight form of food container (cake keeper?).  Then slice your berries a few hours before serving and chill your whipping cream so you can take it out while your guests linger over dinner and whip the cream and assemble the dessert in just ten minutes or so.  I also like this with kiwi and or starfruit in addition to the strawberries.  

Coconut Pavlova with Strawberries

meringue
4 egg whites
pinch of salt
2 T cornstarch
1 T fresh lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla
1 C sugar (I like the Baker's Superfine Sugar in a carton similar in size and shape to a milk carton)
3/4 C sweetened shredded coconut

filling
1 C heavy whipping cream (Trader Joe's makes a nice useful plastic pint bottle)
1/4 C plain nonfat Greek yogurt
2 T sugar

3 C halved or quartered strawberries

Heat oven to 300 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Here's a step I skipped that would have proved useful:  with a pencil trace your serving dish on the parchment.  Turn the parchment over so you can see the circle, but the pencil will not contact the meringue.

Separate the eggs one at a time into a little bowl then pour the white into your mixing bowl before separating the next egg, this way if you have a little yolk issue you don't have to start all over.  Beat the egg whites and pinch of salt with an electric mixer starting at medium to keep the flying egg whites to a minimum.  Increase the speed to high and beat until soft peaks form.  Beat in the cornstarch, lemon juice and vanilla until firm peaks form.  Keep the mixer running and slowly (I mean it, super slow-mo) add the sugar and beat at high until glossy stiff peaks form.  Use a spatula and fold in 1/4 C of the coconut.  

Pile the meringue in the center of your circle on the parchment paper.  Spread it out with your spatula leaving at least two-inches for the meringue to expand as it bakes.  Smooth and sculpt as you wish.  I usually make my sides a little taller than the middle (don't worry if you don't, the center will most likely fall when you add the filling and fruit).  Sprinkle the sides or the whole meringue with the remaining 1/2 C of coconut.  Bake for 45-50 minutes or until coconut is golden and the meringue is firm on the outside.   If it's a dry day outside your kitchen, move the parchment and meringue to a cooling rack.  Cool completely and peel off parchment.  If it's damp or rainy just keep your meringue in the oven on the paper and the sheet after it's cooled a bit.  It's not hard to peel off the meringue hours later or even the next day.  That's the whole point of parchment paper.

Make the filling just before you are ready to serve the meringue.   Beat the heavy cream in a mixing bowl with an electric beater working your way up to high to minimize splashing.  A chilled bowl and beater/beaters speed up the process, but are not necessary.  Beat until soft peaks form (takes a bit longer than the egg whites, at least at my house).  Beat in the yogurt and the sugar until firm peaks form (you can beat cream too long, so keep an eye on it).  

Pile the whipped cream in the center of the meringue.  Top with strawberries and serve.  

beaten meringue


spread meringue (it looks baked, but it was a dark and rainy day)

topped with coconut

all done and on my first attempt at the right platter which was wrong

topped with the whipped cream mixture

and the strawberries

ready to serve


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