Welcome to my blog, through which I hope to be able to share my experiences of gluten free cooking, baking, experimenting and eating.
When my daughter was diagnosed (age 6) with Coeliac Disease, our world of eating changed overnight. From breads, pastry and pasta to cakes, biscuits and puddings.......... suddenly most of what we knew was 'off the menu'. I think I must have tested every available gluten free product on the market, seeking out replacements to try and keep things as normal as possible. I was disappointed to find that what was available was often dry, crumbly and flavourless.
Not one to shy away from a challenge, I decided to turn my kitchen into a laboratory, turn all I knew about cooking on its head and start creating!

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Perfectly Pretty Pink Pavlova with Berries & Nectarine - A Taste of Summer in the Cold (gluten free) and Some Tips & Tricks for a Perfect Meringue


I have been in search of the perfect meringue recipe for years and over the Christmas break, took some time to do some research to progress my quest.

I love meringue and particularly Pavlova...... that sumptuous crispy-gooey sugary meringue-based dessert which is invariably topped with whipped cream and fruit. It is always an incredible show-stopping end to a meal.

I have never had a major problem with meringue per se and often make it as a way of using up left over egg whites. If completely dried out, it is easy to store for a few weeks in an airtight container and means that there is a ready base when guests arrive either at short notice, or when I want to avoid spending too much time in the kitchen.

Sometimes however, it cracks slightly or weeps syrup when baking and I figure that however good something tastes, there is always a way to make it better.


My google searching eventually led me to a fab duo called The Meringue Girls....... and I thought that if anyone might have perfected the crispy sweet white stuff, it would be them! Just clicking through the images on their website makes my eyes widen and my mouth water. Best of all, it seems they are more than willing to share their experience. They are clearly experts..... so I watched their videos, read their recipes and borrowed their wisdom!

This is what I learnt about meringue-making :

1.  We all know how important it is to have a really clean, grease-free bowl right? Wipe lemon juice around the inside of the bowl with clean kitchen roll to get it spotless!

2.  Weigh your egg whites! You want a ratio of twice the weight of sugar to egg white..... and make sure absolutely NO egg yolk sneaks into the mix.

3.  To get a smooth, shiny, stable meringue mixture which doesn't ooze when baked, heat the sugar at 200 C for about 7 minutes, before adding to the egg whites and always use caster sugar.

4.  Start by whisking the egg white very slowly, so that it forms small stabilising bubbles and only whack up the speed when the egg white has reached a good frothy stage. You can then increase the speed until the meringue mix reaches stiff peak consistency. Make sure the mixture stays put when the bowl is tipped upside-down!

5.  Add the hot sugar to the stiff egg white very slowly (1 teaspoon at a time). If you add it too quickly, your meringue will flop! Once all the sugar has been added, continue to whisk at full speed for at least 5 minutes to achieve a smooth, thick, glossy mixture.

6.  When the mixture is fully whisked, check it by rubbing a small amount between thumb and finger. If it feels gritty with sugar grains, it is not ready.... whisk some more!

7. Take care with your flavourings. Use intense natural flavours, but avoid folding in anything too oily as this will deflate the mixture.

8.  Bake long and low..... Your oven should be set at about 110 C/225 F/Gas ¼ to carefully dry out the meringue. Don't keep opening the oven door..... the sudden changes in temperature may cause the meringue to crack...... Turn off the oven when done, but leave the meringues in there with the door closed, so that they cool with the oven.


The verdict? This meringue is the stuff of dreams! It is light, dry, crisp, airy, melt-in-the-mouth heaven! I think I have found the only meringue recipe I will need from here on in.....

And the Pavlova? It is the best I have ever made! Inspired to use the left-over egg whites from a Sunday dessert of Creme Brûlée (recipe coming soon), this Pav has a delicate border of pink raspberry-flavoured meringue swirls....... is filled with light, pillowy vanilla whipped cream...... is piled high with a fresh fruit salad made from raspberries, blueberries and nectarine with a hint of maple syrup...... and is topped with a drizzle of raspberry coulis.

A taste of Summer in the cold....... naturally gluten free....... and with Valentines coming up very soon, would make a sublime sharing dessert for lovers.


I am sharing my Perfectly Pretty Pink Pavlova with the following :

No Waste Food Challenge with Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary. Meringues and Pavlova are always a great way to use up spare egg whites.

Free From Fridays with Le Coin De Mel and Free From Farmhouse.





Brilliant Blog Posts with Honest Mum.

Sunday Fitness & Food with Ilka's Blog and Marathons & Motivation.



Gluten Free Fridays with Vegetarian Mamma.

Cook Blog Share, this week with Sneaky Veg.


Other Meringue desserts on Gluten Free Alchemist :

Layered Berry Pavlova
Orange & Lime Meringue Pie
Rhubarb-Strawberry Meringue Pie
Raspberry Meringue Pie
Zesty Lemon Meringue Roulade
Strawberry Meringue Nests

Perfectly Pretty Pink Pavlova with Berries & Nectarine (serves 8)

Ingredients

Meringue (basic method from The Meringue Girls)
150g egg white (from approx 4 large eggs)
300g caster sugar
a few drops of raspberry extract or ½ teaspoon vanilla bean powder
red food colouring paste mixed with a little raspberry extract (to 'paint' the piping bag for the swirls)

approx 400 ml double cream
1 teaspoon vanilla bean powder

250g fresh raspberries
125g fresh blueberries
2 nectarines - de-stoned and cut into pieces
1 tablespoon maple syrup

a little (optional) raspberry coulis to drizzle - e.g. from this recipe
icing sugar to dust
edible glitter to decorate

Method

  1. Prepare the baking paper for your Pavlova by drawing a large circle (approx 10 inches/26 cm in diameter) on to baking paper and then turning the paper over (so that you can still see the circle). Place on a large baking tray (big enough to take the circle with room to spare). Set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 200 C/400 F/Gas 6 and line a small, deep baking dish with baking paper. Weigh the caster sugar into the dish and heat in the oven for 7 minutes (this helps to give the meringue a stable, glossy texture).
  3. Whilst the sugar is heating, whisk the egg whites (preferably in a stand mixer). Whisk slowly at first (to allow small stabilising bubbles to form) and gradually increase the speed, whisking until the egg white forms stiff peaks.
  4. Take the hot sugar from the oven and turn the oven down to 110 C/225 F/Gas ¼. Leave the oven door open to enable the oven to cool a little quicker.
  5. With the mixer on full speed, add the hot sugar to the egg whites a teaspoon at a time, whisking continually and making sure the mixture has returned to 'stiff peaks' before each addition. Continue until all the sugar has been added.
  6. Once all the sugar has been added, whisk on full speed for at least 5 minutes until truly stiff and glossy. To test whether the mixture is ready, rub a small amount of the mixture between your thumb and finger. If it is still gritty with sugar, continue to whisk until smooth.
  7. Finally add any flavouring to the meringue mix and whisk or fold through.
  8. Spread a good layer of the meringue on the baking paper to make a thick circle (to the line of the drawn circle).
  9. Take a piping bag, trim off the end and turn inside out (leaving about an inch inside the turn to grab and turn back). Paint three or four stripes of edible food colouring paste up the piping bag about half the length of the bag. Insert your chosen large piping tip and pull the point back through to turn the bag back the right way (the colour should be on the inside).
  10. Fill the bag with meringue, squeezing and squishing a little to remove any air pockets.
  11. Pipe swirls at the outside round edge of the white meringue that you have already spread onto baking paper, to completely encircle it
  12. Bake the meringue for approx 1 hour and 30 minutes (until the base comes away for the paper easily and cleanly). Turn the oven off, leaving the meringue inside to cool with the oven.
  13. Filling and fruit : De-stone and chop the nectarine into pieces and place the flesh in a small bowl. Add the maple syrup and stir through. Leave for about 20 minutes to mingle.
  14. Whisk the double cream with the vanilla powder until it forms soft peaks.
  15. When the meringue is completely cold, fill the central 'bowl' with whipped cream and pile the raspberries, blueberries and nectarines on top.
  16. Drizzle with a little raspberry coulis (if using) and top with a sprinkle of icing sugar and a little edible glitter (optional).
  17. Enjoy decadently!
Gluten Free Alchemist © 2013-17 unless otherwise indicated

22 comments:

  1. My that does look good. We are counting calories so it will have to wait for a while!

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    1. Thanks DC..... I work on the basis that meringue is full of air! Makes me feel better anyway! Happy Sunday xx

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  2. Strangely I know pavlovas very well despite never having made one - because my mum makes them all the time - so I am a little confused about you talking interchangably about meringues and pavlova - for me meringue is crisp with perhaps a little chewiness whereas pavlova is crisp on the outside and marshmallow soft on the inside. Is your pav soft on the inside? Sorry to be a bit confused as I am quite in awe of your pav which looks magnificent and I really love the pink swirls around the outside - very fancy indeed!

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    1. Mmmmm.... Interesting conundrum Johanna! For me, meringues have always come in different consistencies, depending on how you use them. And Pavlovas have the same options. Sometimes I make soft gooey pavlovas and sometimes I make firmer, crisp, chewy ones. This one has a crisp exterior and a chewy interior! But now you have me thinking, I will have to do some research on the semantics and definitions of both xx

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  3. What a delicious dessert and the photos are stunning too. You've made my mouth water! Thanks for linking up with #CookBlogShare

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  4. Love meringue and yours looks magnificent

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  5. The fluffy and light beautiful taste of Pavlova with fresh fruit! Absolutely divine! Love the pink color of this stunning cake!

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    1. Thank you Ilka. Pavlova is always delicious to me. xx

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  6. Wow your pavlova is so beautiful! I love the vibrant colours. I'm a fan of the Meringue Girls too, I made some meringue kisses using their recipe and they turned out great.

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    1. Aww thanks Kat! The meringue girls are fab aren't they! And so willing to share their wisdom xx

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  7. Very clever! You really do do your research and I always know that I can recommend your recipes even when I haven't made them. This looks totally divine. I never knew that hot sugar helped the process!

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    1. Well thank you Vicki! I hate the idea that I might put out a dud recipe, but still worry about whether something that works for me will work for someone else.
      The hot sugar idea was a new one on me too. But it starts to cook the egg white before it hits the oven, which apparently also helps to stabilise.

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  8. Wow wow wow! I love the colour Kate! I adore meringues and pavlovas and yet have never tried a coloured one! It's definitely going on my to try list! I too have come across the Meringue Girls recently and am interested how they warm their sugar in the oven for a little while first. That's something else I need to try too. Absolutely great bake Kate, I bet it must have tasted amazing!
    Angela x

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    1. Thanks Angela. When I made it I sort of wondered why I had never thought of colouring the meringue before. It did make such a pretty difference.
      Warming the sugar was interesting, but I am sure it made a difference so would recommend giving it a try. xx

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  9. Wow Kate that looks amazing, and so pretty! Thank you for sharing with #CookBlogShare x

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    1. Thank you Kirsty. You're more than welcome x

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  10. This looks amazing! It is so pretty!

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  11. This has got to be the most beautiful meringue I have ever seen! A work of art! Thanks for all the fantastic tips too, and for sharing your creation with the No Waste Food Challenge! :)

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    1. Thanks Elizabeth. That is really kind of you.
      Always good to share with No Waste Food. One of my favourite link-ups! x

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