Happy Spring! And Happy Easter too if you are celebrating it. My son Stephen and I made a lovely lunch that featured many spring foods. We had a small Roast Leg of Lamb with a Mint Chimichurri sauce, Asparagus, Roasted New Potatoes and for dessert we made Pavlovas with Rosewater and fresh strawberries. The Pavlovas were divine! So that’s why I’m sharing that recipe with you today. I first had a Pavlova in New Zealand and they swear that they invented it, not the Australians, but it doesn’t matter to me as it is a wonderful dessert no matter where it came from. My friend’s Pavlova was a huge meringue topped with lots of sweetened whipped cream and a mound of fresh kiwi fruit (naturally), strawberries and blueberries. I loved it! I was trying to think of a gluten free dessert and I decided to finally try my hand at making meringues. They have always intimidated me, although I discovered they are really very easy – they just take patience. The good news is that they can be made one day ahead and so can the whipped cream and strawberries, so all that’s required when you make the dessert is to assemble the ingredients and serve it.
The basic recipe for the meringue comes from Epicurious.com, but I added Rosewater to the meringues and to the whipped cream and the strawberries as well to give it a lovely perfume and a slightly exotic flavor. I always have Rose Water on hand because I use it to clean my face – a Pakistani friend gave me that wonderful tip years ago. I buy food grade Rose Water at the local Indian store. I often forget to use it in cooking, but one of my favorite candies is a Persian Rose Water Nougat with pistachios. So when I added the Rose Water to the whipped cream, I recreated that wonderful flavor. All I needed was some pistachios, which I will be sure to use next time. The Rose Water gives this dessert a delicate perfume and I think it really enhances the flavor of the strawberries too. And you know what? I think I created my favorite dessert of all time and it was easy and beautiful too!
Pavlovas with Rosewater Cream and Strawberries
For the Meringue
2 large egg whites at room temperature for 30 minutes
6 Tablespoons Sugar
¾ teaspoon cornstarch
¼ teaspoon white wine vinegar
¼ teaspoon Rosewater
Put the rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Line a large baking pan with a Silpat mat. Cut out 6 circles of parchment papers, each 2 ½ inches wide (use a teacup to measure and trace with a pencil). Turn over and put on cookie sheet space a few inches apart.
Put egg whites in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until soft peaks begin to form. Add the sugar and cornstarch (while the beater is still running) and beat until glossy peaks form (this takes a long time). Beat in the vinegar and Rosewater. Spoon meringue onto parchment circles evenly. Bake the meringues until dry to the touch – about 20 minutes. Then turn off the oven and stick a wooden spoon in the door to hold the door open. Leave the meringues in the oven for one hour. Store in a plastic bag that closes on a plate and store at room temperature until ready to use.
1 16 oz container of fresh strawberries
2 Tablespoons Sugar
1 Tablespoon Rosewater
Wash strawberries and remove stems. Cut into ½ if small and quarters if large. Take 5 or 6 strawberries and mash them to develop more liquid. Mix all the strawberries with Sugar and Rosewater and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes to ½ hour to let juices develop. They can also be made ahead and refrigerated until ready to serve.
For Whipped Cream:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 ½ Tablespoons Sugar
1 teaspoon Rosewater
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and beat until soft peaks form. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Place Meringue (with the parchment removed) on a small dessert plate and put a large dollop of whipped cream on top. Place a big spoonful of strawberries on top of that and drizzle it all with some of the strawberry juice on the bottom of the bowl. Serve immediately.
Five Element Analysis
Eggs belong to the Water Element so that element is covered. The Rosewater and Strawberries add lots of the Fire Element. The Whipped Cream contributes the Metal Element and there’s lots of sugar so the Earth Element makes a strong appearance too. Only the Wood Element needs support, as there is only the tiniest bit of vinegar. So serve this dessert after you have had a main course that includes the Wood Element protein or vegetable.