Monday, April 05, 2010

Pavlova with Homemade Caramel

Happy belated Easter everyone! I hope you all had a terrific long weekend and ate lots of yummy food! Around here, we had a pretty quiet weekend and took advantage of the great weather to do some gardening and stain the deck. Easter dinner was just Dan, myself, his mom and brother. 

 (A little Easter centrepiece. I got the birds, nests and eggs at a little shop in Chinatown for a great deal a couple years ago! I threw in some blue flowers that carpet our backyard, I wish I knew what they were.)

Last weekend I was supposed to make a big birthday dinner for Dan's mom, but I was sick so I had to cancel. BUT I made up for it this weekend! I was asked to make a pavlova, and it was my first, but I'm so proud of the results! Here it is: Birthday Pavlova with Homemade Caramel.

Homemade Caramel
(Recipe from Michael Smith at the Globe and Mail) 
 Makes two cups

1 cup water
2 cups white sugar
1 cup cream
A dribble or two of pure vanilla extract
A sprinkle or two of sea salt
1. Pour the water into a small saucepot. Pour the sugar in a small, tight pile into the pot. 
2. Begin heating over medium-high heat but don't stir. Stirring encourages crystallization with gritty results. The water and sugar will quickly dissolve together and form a simple syrup. As the heat increases the mixture will simmer and steam, the water will gradually evaporate allowing the steam to die down and the mixture's temperature to rise.
3. When you see the first hints of colour (a pale golden brown), gently begin swirling the
pan to help the mixture colour evenly. Continue heating and swirling. The mixture's temperature will gradually rise and continue to darken reaching an even, deep golden brown. 
4. When it looks a nice caramel tone turn off the heat. This will slow but not stop the browning.
5. Carefully add the cream. It will sputter and hiss a bit. The much lower temperature of the cream will instantly drop the caramel's temperature out of the sugar-browning range preventing it from overbrowning. 
6. Turn the heat back on and stir or whisk until the caramel is smooth. 
7. Add the vanilla and salt - both will enhance flavour.

Pour the caramel into a jar and refrigerate it for several hours, until thickened. Keep refrigerated. You may rest the sauce at room temperature for an hour or so to warm it to a pourable consistency. If you're in a hurry, simply pulse and stir in your microwave.

*Veronica's Notes: I love love love this caramel. It's fairly simple to make. Inevitably though, about one out of four times I make it I screw it up and have to make another batch. Watch your pot carefully! It goes from caramel to burnt VERY quickly, so don't get greedy with the colour! I typically start swirling a bit early and my wrist is hurting by the end. Learn a lesson from me, don't do that. Last, when you're adding the cream, wear an oven mitt! The steam that comes off is SO hot! It's not all the much work and you'll get a lot of "Oh my gosh you MADE caramel?!" from you guests. Totally worth it ;)

(Adapted from - Banoffee Pavlova)

1 cup castor or superfine sugar (also known as dissolving or beverage sugar) 
2 tsp cornstarch
1 pinch cream of tartar
4 egg whites
1 pinch salt
1 dash vanilla extract
1 tsp white wine vinegar (or white vinegar)
1 banana sliced
Homemade caramel
Lump of dark chocolate (for shavings)
Fresh whipped cream

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil, and trace an 8 inch circle onto the surface.
  2. In a small cup or bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch, and cream of tartar. In a large glass or metal bowl, whip the egg whites with salt, vanilla, and vinegar until soft peaks form. Gradually sprinkle in the sugar mixture and continue to whip until stiff and shiny. Mound the mixture into the traced circle on the baking sheet. Flatten the top and smooth the sides using a metal spatula.
  3. Place in the preheated oven, and immediately reduce the heat to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until a pale golden brown. Turn off the oven, and leave the door slightly ajar with the pavlova inside until completely cooled.
  4. Just before serving time, invert the cooled pavlova onto a serving plate, and top with slices of banana. Cover banana with caramel. Top that with whipped cream and sprinkle with grated chocolate. 
*Veronica's Notes: I drizzed with caramel again on top of the whipped cream because I'm a greedy girl and I love homemade caramel! Pavlova is also amazing topped with fresh berries and whipped cream. You really can't mess this up other than not letting it cool in the oven properly! The four of us devoured the entire pavlova minus one slice that the birthday girl got to bring home with her. 

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