Monday, July 20, 2009

Blue Ribbon Dessert!

Take your marks...  Get set...  Bake!  This 4th of July, I entered a bake-off hosted by our Cross Cultural Training Conference.  My friend, Krista, and I proudly display our entries above - just a drop in the bucket of desserts we enjoyed that day.  Red, white and blue cakes, cookies, fruit pizzas, salads, layer bars, cupcakes, tarts, fruit bars, candies, even marzipan crowded three long folding tables for judges and on-lookers to admire longingly.  My entry, Pavlova, traditionally an Australian dessert named for defected Russian Ballerina (very patriotic, I know,) took first place in the miscellaneous category!  It IS summer's perfect, light dessert, if I do say so myself.  Now, by popular request, the recipe for Pavlova for your next bake-off:

Pavlova:  serves 10-15

Depending on where you live, you may want to make the meringue shells a day in advance, keeping them in the oven (turned off) to continue to dry over the next 24 hours.  If you live in a rather dry climate, like Colorado, the natural dryness of the air will sufficiently crisp the meringue shells.

Preheat oven to 300

Ingredients and Directions:

Meringue Shells:

3 egg whites

1 cup sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract (or 1/2 tsp. almond extract for a little different flavor)

1/2 tsp. salt

Beat egg whites until stiff.  Add salt.  Add sugar gradually until whites and sugar form stiff peaks.  Be careful not to overbeat.  Fold in vanilla extract.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and using a spatula or spoon, create little shells or bowls out of the meringue mixture.  Depending on how many people you plan on serving, make the shells larger or smaller to accommodate the masses.  Place the shells in the oven to bake for approximately 40 minutes.  After 40 minutes, turn the oven off.  You may leave the shells in the oven (if possible) until serving dessert - the hot air will create a crisper texture.

Whipped Cream:

1 pint whipping cream

1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract

2 Tablespoons sugar (or powdered sugar for lighter sweetness)

Combine ingredients and whip together until creamy.  Add more sugar or vanilla according to taste.

Fresh Fruit:

Whatever seasonal fresh fruit is available at the market:  strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, cherries (pitted!,) peaches, or any combination of the above are all proven delicious choices.  You shouldn't need more than a quart of berries or fruit, unless you take your berrying very seriously.  Make sure berries are clean, and peaches or nectarines are sliced into bite-sized pieces.  Personally I don't sugar the fruit, but that is also an option for more tart fruit choices or if you prefer a less sweet whipped cream.

Layer the whipped cream and berries in the meringue shell to taste, or allow guests to fill their own shells.