Woo-hoo, it's Friday!! And almost the end of February! And the birthday of two of my favorite little people!! Happy birthday Maya and Sophia!! And...it's Famous Fridays and a very special one at that, because this week I am focusing on one of my favorite new cookbooks, Wintersweet by Tammy Donroe Inman, and there's Chocolate Pomegranate Pavlova, complete with homemade pomegranate jelly! Need I say more?!! Let's get this party started!!
Apropos to the kind of winter it's been, this cookbook is entirely devoted to the desserts of the winter season--you know, apples, pears, pumpkin, cranberries--no strawberries or peaches here. Guys, I really love this cookbook. I mean really, really LOVE it--as in, I can't stop baking things from it and it's a good thing people are so happy to take a lot of the desserts I've been churning out or we'd all weigh 1000 pounds! Tammy really has a way with recipes and with words. Not only are her recipes off-the-charts good, but her little descriptions in the book are helpful and laugh out loud funny as well! In addition, she writes a terrific blog called Food On The Food, which you should definitely take a look at too. Now onto the pavlova!
For years I have avoided making a pavlova, thinking it was too complicated and too much work for the end result. What an idiot I've been! Sure, there may be a few steps involved here, but none of it is hard and it can all be done in stages and the meringue shell is supposed to look free-form--so no worries. I've also always wanted to make my own jam so this recipe kills two birds with one stone (ok, so it's jelly, close enough!)
You really need two days to make this the right way, so save this for a weekend if your weekdays are filled. Day One you make the pomegranate jelly. I never knew making jelly was so simple. All you do is mix together pomegranate juice, lemon juice and pectin and then boil it, adding sugar in the process. Then you transfer it to a mason jar (how much do you love mason jars?) and then let it chill for at least a day. The whole thing takes 20 minutes tops!
Day Two is time to make the pavlova. First you take a bowl and trace a large circle on a piece of parchment paper. This will help you to keep the meringue somewhat circular shaped.
Then you beat a bunch of egg whites with sugar until stiff and fold them together with some cocoa powder. Once the meringue is finished you mound it on the parchment paper traced circle and bake. It's easy and quite fun--sort of like you're making an edible sculpture!
Once the meringue shell is baked you simply top it with some of the homemade pomegranate jelly that's been slightly warmed and then with some fresh pomegranate seeds before slathering the whole thing with sweetened vanilla whipped cream and more pomegranate seeds.
This is a creation that will earn you cheers from your eaters, not only for the visuals but for the amazing combinations of tastes and textures as well! There's the chewy, slightly chocolatey meringue crust, the smooth tartness of the pomegranate jelly, the burst in your mouth plumpness and tanginess of the pomegranate seeds and the pillowy sweetness of the whipped cream, covering it all. It's truly an amazing dessert and I will definitely be making this again-one of the few great benefits of being stuck inside this winter! If the weather again forces you to keep things inside this weekend, try this stupendous recipe from Wintersweet and revel in the cold, instead of cursing it yet again!! Have a great weekend everyone!!
Chocolate Pomegranate Pavlova-Famous Fridays
Serves 8-10 people
Prep Time: Day One for Jelly: 20 minutes; Day Two for Pavlova: 3-4 hours (but only about 30-40 minutes is hands-on)
For the Pomegranate Jelly
- 2 cups pomegranate juice
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 ounce powdered pectin (I used Sure-Jell)
- 2 1/2 cups sugar
For the Pavlova
- 1 cup sugar (or a scant cup superfine or caster sugar)
- 4 large egg whites, room temperature
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
For the Topping
- 1/4 cup Pomegranate Jelly
- 1/2 fresh pomegranate seeded, about 1/2 cup seeds
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons confectioners' sugar
1. To make the jelly: Mix together the lemon and pomegranate juices in a medium heavyweight pot. Whisk in the pectin until it dissolves. Turn the heat up high and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently. Then, whisk in the sugar and without stopping stirring, bring the mixture to a full rolling boil that can't be lowered by stirring. Boil hard for 1 full minute, stirring constantly.
2. Remove the pot from the heat, skim off the foam and ladle the jelly into a warm, sterilized (it's good enough if you've run it through the dishwasher) glass jar. Let it cool for a while and then screw on the lids and refrigerate at least overnight and up to three weeks. This makes plenty for the recipe, so you will definitely have enough for leftovers.
3. To make the Pavlova: First preheat the oven to 350ºF. Then line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper and using a large upside down bowl or cake pan, trace a 7-inch circle with pencil onto the parchment paper, pressing heavily so that the circle is clearly visible. Turn the paper upside down on the sheet and set aside.
4. If using regular granulated sugar instead of superfine, process the sugar for 1 minute in a food processor or blender to make it finely ground.
5. Place the egg whites in the large bowl of an electric mixer and beat them for 3-4 minutes until they form stiff peaks that don't collapse when you lift the beaters. Keeping the mixer running, slowly add the finely ground sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well until each addition is incorporated and the meringue is shiny and very stiff. When all of the sugar has been added, beat for another 4-6 minutes on medium-high speed, scraping down the bowl as needed, until the mixture has no more grittiness to it when you rub it between your fingers. The mixture should seem very dense and cling to the bowl. Sift the cocoa on top. Then add the cornstarch and vinegar and fold all three in using a rubber spatula with light strokes,rotating the bowl and making sure to lift the whites from the bottom and gently place them on top of the dry ingredients, only until no white streaks are visible. You don't want to deflate all the air you beat into the egg whites.
6. Working quickly dab a bit of meringue on the underside corners of the parchment paper on the baking sheet so that the paper doesn't slip while you are arranging the meringue circle. Now mound the meringue within the traced circle. With your spatula, smooth it into a circle and press down gently in the center to form a hollow that leaves you with 2-3 inch sides. Don't try to make this perfect. You want it to look free-form.
7. Place the baking sheet into the oven and immediately turn it down to 300ºF. Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes until the meringue is set and crisp on the outer layer but the center is still somewhat soft underneath. No matter what, don't open the door until the very end of the baking time, or it will sink. When it's finally done, prop open the oven door, turn off the heat and leave the pan in the oven until the meringue is completely cool. For me, this took about 1 hour. Don't be heartbroken when you finally remove it from the oven and it's all cracked. It's supposed to look this way and you will soon be covering it with jelly and whipped cream and it will look gorgeous.
8. To make the topping and assemble the pavlova: Don't assemble the whole thing until you are ready to serve this which means you cannot make this early in the day and serve it later at night. If you like, you can make the meringue shell early and gently cover it with plastic wrap till ready to use though. So, just before serving, peel the meringue from the parchment paper and transfer it to a cake plate or platter. Warm the jelly in a small pot on the stove over low heat, just to loosen it a bit, whisking in up to a teaspoon of warm water to help make the jelly more syrupy and pourable. Drizzle the pomegranate syrup over the middle of the meringue shell and then scatter half of the fresh pomegranate seeds over the syrup.
9. In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, whip the heavy cream with the confectioners' sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form, 1-2 minutes. You don't want it to be stiff. Then mound the cream on top of the meringue all over and sprinkle with the rest of the pomegranate seeds. Serve immediately!
Note: Recipe adapted from Wintersweet by Tammy Donroe Inman. I stayed pretty true to this recipe but did leave out the 1/8 teaspoon of cardamom that she includes in the meringue.