Pavlova – Mascarpone Cream w Vanilla Bean – Champagne Strawberries

Pavlova is undoubtably an Aussie Icon in many peoples eyes and for me and my family would often signal the much loved family get together.  Many people opt to serve tea or coffee with their Pavlova.  I say “raise a glass of Champagne and enjoy the celebration!!!!”  Yeah and don’t forget to save the egg yolks so you can make some crème brûleé.  If you don’t already have a favourite brûleé recipe don’t worry, I will post my coconut, kaffir lime leaf and ginger brûleé recipe for you all to indulge in soon ………….. soooooooo watch this space  xxx

Ingredients:
7 egg whites
2 cups caster sugar
1 tsp chardonnay vinegar
¼ fresh vanilla bean
300 ml pure cream
200 ml mascarpone
1 punnet of strawberries
2 tbs caster sugar
2 cups of Champagne  (or Sparkling Wine / Presecco)
3 tbs icing sugar
170g of passionfruit pulp
* baking paper

Method:

-pre-heat oven 180º celsius
– cut the tops off the strawberries – cut the strawberries into quarters – cover with champagne – leave on the bench to infuse – you want the strawberries to be at room temperature
– whisk egg whites to medium peaks – add sugar gradually until the egg whites reach firm peaks – add chardonnay vinegar and whisk thoroughly to combine
– cut a piece of baking paper into a circle approx 3cm wider then you’d like the pavlova to be (this will help you achieve an even round shape)
– place a couple of small dots of the egg white mixture on the baking tray before placing the paper onto of the tray (this is will help to stop the paper moving in the oven)
– with a large kitchen spoon – spoon the meringue mixture onto the baking paper – work the mixture to create a high sided circle shape
– place the pavlova in the oven on the middle shelf immediately turn the oven temperature down to 150 º celsius – this is important as it will ensure you achieve the lovely crust on the outside of the pavlova and the all so important gooey centre!
whilst the pavolva is cooking – in a clean bowl – whisk the cream to soft peaks with 2tbs of caster sugar and the vanilla beans – once at soft peak add the mascarpone cream and continue to whisk until medium peak – once done cover and keep in the fridge until you are ready to serve
– depending on your oven it will take approximately 90 minutes (I tend to check it at 70 minutes though to be on the safe side)
– you will know the pavlova is ready when the sides have slightly cracked and have a shiny crust – and the top has also achieved a shiny crust – the crust must be firm though
– once the pavlova is ready – turn the oven off – open the oven door slightly and allow the pavlova to cool in the oven – this will ensure the pavlova keeps it’s high shape and does not sink when it hits the cold air
– allow the pavlova to cool completely before serving – otherwise the mascarpone / cream mixture will melt when you place it on top of the pavlova

Serving:
– I like to serve the pavlova on a large glass platter / dish for added effect
– carefully remove the pavlova from the baking paper and place on the glass dish – neatly spoon the mascarpone / cream mixture on top of the pavlova (don’t take the mix right to the edge though – as you want to see the lovely crust of the pavlova)
– strain the strawberries from the champagne liquid – place the strawberries neatly onto of the mascarpone mixture (retain the strawberry infused champagne liquid and add it to the your champagne glass with a fresh strawberry and top up with fresh cold champagne)
– place the passionfruit pulp in a pouring jug and pour over the pavlova when you are at the table
– you want to serve the pavlova within 5-10 minutes of the cream mixture going on top of the pavlova – otherwise you risk the lovely crust becoming soggy

Tips:
– ensure the mixing bowl for the egg whites is super clean (otherwise the whites will not become stiff), likewise ensure your whisk / egg beaters are super clean
– best to wash the bowl and whisk immediately before making the meringue mix
– ensure you have absolutely no yolks in the mix (if you accidentally get some yolks into the mix simply use one of the egg shells to carefully scoop out the yolk – this really does work a treat …….. and is heaps easier than trying to remove the yolk with a spoon)
– meringue works best if the egg whites are cold
– ensure you don’t add the sugar before whites are at medium peak
– mixture must be firm / stiff peaks at the end – otherwise the pavlova will not hold it’s shape in the oven
– ensure the sugar is dissolved before putting the mix in the oven (you can test this by getting a spoon and testing some of the mixture by rubbing the mixture between two fingers to ensure it doesn’t feel grainy)
– don’t put the pavlova in the fridge as it will cause the sugar to dissolve and the crust will become soggy
– if you can’t find chardonnay vinegar regular white wine vinegar will work just fine

Suggestions:
– using all the above ingredients expect for the passionfruit pulp – you can easily turn the pavlova into “Eton’s Mess” for a dinner party (Etons Mess is a classic and much loved English dessert).  Simply crumble the pavlova into spoon size chunks in a large mixing bowl – gently stir through the strained strawberries and mascarpone / cream mixture until well combined – then gently spoon the mixture into latte or martini glasses.  This is a great way to finish a dinner party and importantly, not much work for you at the end of the evening to plate up :O)
– the recipe only calls for ¼ of a vanilla bean pod – to ensure you don’t waste the other ¾ ‘s – place the vanilla bean in a glass jar and cover with caster sugar – this will save the vanilla pod from drying out and will also give you some lovely vanilla scented sugar for your morning coffee, pancakes or cake recipes!!

BIG BIG thanks again to Rahni for taking such stunning photos – you rock !!

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