DB Challenge: Pavlovas

The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers’ to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard.

My problem with this challenge was that they wanted it in chocolate. Thing is, I'm really kinda picky when it comes to chocolate. I love it, but only certain ways. For instance, I love chocolate candy and cake, but don't like it as ice cream, pudding, or mousse (this last I'll eat if I have to LOL). So I did mine without the chocolate.

Pavlovas are named after a Russian ballerina named Anna Pavlova. They are essentially meringue topped with cream and fruit. There is controversy between Australia and New Zealand as to where it was created, but research seems to indicate New Zealand (which my Kiwi friend is very proud of).

There are two styles of pavlovas. This challenge was presented as individual serving size. The pavlovas were therefore very crispy. The traditional style is to make it as a giant, cake sized meringue. Apparently in that version the outside shell is nice and crispy but the inside is marshmallowy soft. This sounds very interesting to me and so I will probably try that version next weekend for July 4th.

Meringue is simply egg whites and sugar beaten to very stiff. I took this mixture and used a decorator bag and tip to squeeze out the circle shells. I tried to create a bit of a lip on them to hold the toppings.

The challenge had a mascarpone mousse and a mascarpone cream. Talk about fattening! I made both and had a couple of issues. The mascarpone mousse came out perfectly except that there was no sweetness to it and so it was kind of drab. Perhaps if I had done the chocolate version it would have had the sweetness. Next time I would add a bit of sugar. But keep in mind that when combined with all the other elements (meringue, cream, fruit) there was plenty of sweetness.

The cream starts with a creme anglaise. My problem here is that I guess I overcooked it because the cream curdled. So I just forced it through a fine sieve over and over to cream it out again before I added the mascarpone.

At our party I decided to add some of our lemon curd as well. So the layers went: meringue shell, lemon curd, mascarpone mousse, fruit (plum/nectarine), and mascarpone cream on top. Everyone loved it, although Paul thought there were too many elements. I can't wait to try the other version.

Meringue shells

3 large egg whites
½ cup plus 1 tbsp (110 grams) white granulated sugar

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 200º F (95º C) degrees. Line two baking sheets with silpat or parchment and set aside.
Put the egg whites in a bowl and whip until soft peaks form. Increase speed to high and gradually add granulated sugar about 1 tbsp at a time until stiff peaks form. (The whites should be firm but moist.)
Fill pastry bag and pipe meringue onto parchment in whatever shape desired.
Bake in oven for 2-3 hours until the shells are crispy.
Store in an air-tight container for up to three days.

Mascarpone Mousse (for the top of the Pavlova base):

1 ½ cups (355 mls) heavy cream (cream with a milk fat content of between 36 and 40 percent)
grated zest of 1 average sized lemon
1 2/3 cups (390 mls) mascarpone
pinch of nutmeg
2 tbsp (30 mls) Grand Marnier (or orange juice)

1. Put ½ cup (120 mls) of the heavy cream and the lemon zest in a saucepan over medium high heat. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and let sit at room temperature until cool.
2. Place the mascarpone, the remaining cup of cream and nutmeg in a bowl. Whip on low for a minute until the mascarpone is loose. Add the Grand Marnier and whip on medium speed until it holds soft peaks. (DO NOT OVERBEAT AS THE MASCARPONE WILL BREAK.)

Crème Anglaise (a component of the Mascarpone Cream below):

1 cup (235 mls) whole milk
1 cup (235 mls) heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
6 large egg yolks
6 tbsp (75 grams) sugar

1. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture turns pale yellow.
2. Combine the milk, cream and vanilla in a saucepan over medium high heat, bringing the mixture to a boil. Take off the heat.
3. Pour about ½ cup of the hot liquid into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly to keep from making scrambled eggs. Pour the yolk mixture into the pan with the remaining cream mixture and put the heat back on medium. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens enough to lightly coat the back of a wooden spoon. DO NOT OVERCOOK.
4. Remove the mixture from the heat and strain it through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl.

Mascarpone Cream (for drizzling):

1 recipe crème anglaise
½ cup (120 mls) mascarpone
2 tbsp (30 mls) Sambucca (optional)
½ cup (120 mls) heavy cream

1. Prepare the crème anglaise. Slowly whisk in the mascarpone and the Sambucca and let the mixture cool. Put the cream in a bowl and beat with electric mixer until very soft peaks are formed. Fold the cream into the mascarpone mixture.