Birthday Strawberry Pavlova

Birthday Strawberry Pavlova RecipeBirthday Week
This week is the busiest week of my year. On top of numerous Little League Baseball playoff games, I also have the following: Mother’s Day, the boys’ birthday on the 12th, my birthday on the 14th and finally my daughter’s birthday on the 17th. All of these things happen in a 7 day span. It’s kinda nuts.

When the boys were born ten years ago, I realized that the days of celebrating my own birthday were numbered. Two years after that, the birth of my daughter pretty much sealed the deal. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is more important for the kids to have their special day, and I try to go all out for them ’cause birthday gifts and birthday parties are two of the best things about being a kid.

I am actually okay with not having a big to-do for my birthday. Besides, I stopped counting birthdays after I reached 26. I still like to acknowledge it somehow, usually with a nice dinner or an awesome dessert.

As I celebrate turning 26 every year, I notice I tend to shy away from the usual birthday cakes. More and more I go for the lighter, fruitier types instead of the Death by Chocolate creations I used to love. For example, we all gathered at my sister’s place on Sunday to have a family party. The kids got red velvet cupcakes, and I got a fabulous white cake with a champagne strawberry filling. It was darn tasty and exactly what I wanted.

Speaking of what I wanted, my sister gave me a copy of the cookbook The Canal House Cooks Everyday, which I have been wanting for some time. It includes the recipe below—perfect for celebrating the big 2-6 next year!

P.S. Check out the Canal House Blog and especially sign up for The Canal House Cooks Lunch. Both are food porn at its finest.

Birthday Strawberry Pavlova
Adapted from Canal House Cooks Everyday by Hamilton & Hirsheimer
Serves 6

4 large egg whites, at room temperature
Pinch of cream of tartar
1 1/2 cups superfine sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla extract
4 cups strawberries, hulled
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 275º f . Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Put the egg whites and cream of tartar into a large mixing bowl. Using a mixer fitted with whisks, beat the whites on medium speed until they are very foamy. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until they hold medium-stiff peaks. Continue beating on medium-high speed and gradually add 1 cup of sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Increase the speed to high and beat the whites until they are thick, stiff, and glossy. The total beating time depends on the freshness of the egg whites and the power of your mixer, and we’ve found that it can take anywhere from 5 minutes to 10 minutes. Fold the vinegar and vanilla into the whites.

Pile the meringue into the center of the parchment paper and gently smooth it out to form a thick 9-inch circle. Put the meringue into the oven and bake for 1 hour.

Turn off the oven and leave the meringue inside to dry out, 2-3 hours. The longer it dries out the chewier, and crunchier it becomes, so leaving it the turned-off oven as long as overnight is fine too. The meringue will have cracks around the center and sides.

Toss the strawberries and the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar together in a bowl. Peel off the parchment paper and put the meringue on a cake plate. Whip the cream in a mixing bowl until big soft peaks form. Arrange the berries on the meringue and spoon the whipped cream on top. Alternately, you can reserve a few strawberries for the top.

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