Perfecting the Perfect Pavlova

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I love December and the summer holidays. It has to be my favourite time of the year! Despite the shops being a bit of a nightmare (hello online shopping!) and some folks more than a little grouchy, almost everyone is on leave and in one way or another, getting into the festive cheer. The Christmas trees go up and bubbly starts flowing and while a white Christmas would be a treat, I love the long summer days spent by the pool or on the beach. Even though I only took leave between Christmas and New Year, this past December holiday was probably one of my favourites – for some reason it felt quite long and we did a lot (possibly kick-starting December with a weekend in Hermanus set the tone for the holiday season!) For Christmas Eve this year we went to my mom and as we’ve spent the last few with my in-laws, it was a real treat to enjoy my mom’s cooking again. There’s something about being back at home for Christmas – the familiar smells of all the delicious cooking from the gammon to the turkey to the roast potatoes (and even though I don’t eat any of the meat, I do LOVE the smells) It’s like I’m transported straight back to my childhood with all the excitement that Christmas brings. Since I was on dessert duty, I decided to try my hand at a pavlova after spotting it on this one on Yuppiechef’swebsite. Now you probably thinking a pavlova is so easy but I wanted to go the whole hog and make the meringue and curd myself so there was some testing of my baking skills taking place! And I must say, it turned out better than expected and was surprisingly easy so when you need a dessert to wow your mom-in-law or impress the girls, this one is a sure winner!

Ingredients:

Meringue:
* 6 egg whites
* 400g Castor Sugar
* 10ml vanilla essence

Curd: Ideally, this should be made the day before and left to set over night)
* 3 lemons (zest and juice)
* 4 eggs
* 100g butter
* 250g castor sugar

To serve:
* 250ml whipped cream
* Berries of your choice (and you can get creative here)

Method:
1. Whisk egg whites to stiff peaks. Slowly add the sugar, a few spoonful at a time, and continuously whisk to stiff peaks before adding more sugar.
2. Once all the sugar is incorporated, add the vanilla and whisk through thoroughly. The meringue should be glossy and smooth.
3. Spread the meringue onto a flat baking tray (lined with grease proof paper) and shape as desired.
4. Bake for 2 -3 hours (mine took 2 hours) in a pre-heated oven at 110 degrees. The outside should be firm and the inside soft and gooey.
** As I hadn’t made meringues before, I made a small test one that I could break open and see how the inside was cooked and it helped a lot!

5. Cook the lemon juice, zest, butter and sugar together in a pot on the stove. until the sugar has dissolved.
6. Whisk the eggs and add them in slowly.
7. Reduce the heat and continue whisking until the curd has thickened (do not let it boil)
8. Strain the curd and refrigerate overnight

9. To assemble, add a few dollops of the whipped cream to the meringue base and then drizzle over the curd. Top with assorted berries and nuts.

Serve immediately and enjoy! This lasted surprisingly well for a couple of days, stored in a Tupperware in the fridge.

Happy Monday and happy baking!

xxx Cat

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