If there is one thing that I really, really, REALLY hate doing is unpacking. I really just can't stand it. I spent so much time today unpacking, it was ridiculous. Yes, I know I moved home on Friday, and that it's been several days past that already, but I just didn't "get around" to unpacking until now. I haven't even been busy doing very much of anything. I've been doing a lot of nothing and a lot of Mad Men-watching, so there really just hasn't been any time left to unpack. I've just been too caught up with other things.
Ok, ok, ok. Clearly the things that I have been doing instead of packing are clearly not that important. I mean, doing nothing is actually doing "nothing," and watching Mad Men, while fun and a good way to spend time, is not exactly the most productive way I could be spending my days. My priorities may seem to be out of place, but I think it's ok. Just give me like a week to chill and do nothing post-final exams, and then I'll get back into super-productive mode...or I'll attempt it at least. Take today for instance. It may have taken me eight hours to unpack and put away two suitcases full of clothes (one of which was half full with puffy winter jackets), which seems like an unreasonable amount of time for accomplishing that sort of task, but it's ok. My closet is unbelievably organized, with clothes sorted according to type and color coded, and my shoes neatly arranged in rows along the bottom. My closet, in short, looks beautiful. It was an eight hours well spent.
Here's another good thing that comes at the end of an extended waiting period. Pavlova! Pavlovas are meringue shells that have whipped cream and fruit to top them off, talk about delicious! Meringue, in general, is one of my favorite sweets, and is again, one of those things that I wish I could enjoy more often. I think it's because of the fact that meringue takes a couple hours to cook, and also because you have to make sure that you don't try to make meringue on a humid day, that I often get deterred from making meringue. However, like a beautiful closet after eight hours of unpacking, a lovely meringue with its marshmallow-like interior is totally worth waiting a couple hours for it to cook in the oven.
There's no reason to be intimidated about preparing meringue. Really, there's not! Just make sure you don't save this recipe for a rainy day, and that your bowl is super squeaky clean before you attempt to whip up the egg whites. Other than that, there's nothing more to it. Having a stand mixer is really helpful in a recipe like this, since the egg whites can take a while until they form stiff peaks, but there's no reason you can't just use a regular hand mixer as well (trust me, I've done this before!). As far as topping off the meringue, I kept it simple, and used a soft whipped cream (you want it to be slightly on the runnier side, as the cream should be easy to spread inside the meringue shell), and fresh fruit. You can use any fresh fruit you like to top off the meringue, but I wanted a mixed berry pavlova, and used some strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries that I already had on had. After I finished adding all the berries though, I realized something was missing; the pavlova needed a pop of color! Diced kiwi was the perfect solution for this. The green kiwi complemented the red of the strawberries and raspberries, and really allowed for the fruit to stand out. If you're not sure which fruit you want to use for your pavlova, try thinking about it in terms of which colors you like, and which would colors stand out next to each other, and then match them up to fruit!
This pavlova with mixed fruit is a simple dessert that is elegant in its simplicity. Gotta love these kinds of desserts! Once you make the meringue shell, the rest is easy, and completely adaptable to your own preferences. I leave you all with this, and I will come back soon with a new and delicious post...once I have finished unpacking completely, that is. I doubt my mom will be able to tolerate that heap of random college stuff that I've allowed to just sit in my living room for much longer!
Pavlova with Mixed Fruit
recipe from Joy of Baking
For the Meringue
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
For the Topping
1 cup heavy whipping cream
sugar (to taste)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
mixed fruit of choice (I used blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and kiwi)
Begin by preparing the meringue shell for the pavlova. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F, and position a rack in the middle of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and draw a 7-inch circle onto the paper, and then turn the sheet of parchment paper over, so that the circle is on the opposite side.
In the bowl of a standard electric mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium speed, just until they hold soft peaks. Begin adding the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, and continue to beat, stopping just when the meringue holds stiff and shiny peaks. The sugar should have dissolved by this point, and the meringue should feel smooth, not gritty (you can test this by rubbing a small amount of the meringue in between your fingers. If it feels gritty, continue to beat the egg whites for a little more). Beat in the vanilla extract. Sprinkle the vinegar and cornstarch over the top of the meringue, and gently fold in with a rubber spatula. Fill a large piping bag (I used a star tip, although a circular opening will do) with the egg white mixture, and begin to pipe it onto the parchment paper so that it covers the circle. If you want, add a decorative star tip, and pipe a border over the top of the circle, so that the edges of the circle are higher in the center, forming a well. Alternatively, you can skip the piping bag entirely, and form the meringue shell with a rubber spatula.
Bake the meringue in the preheated oven for 60-75 minutes, until the outside has become dry and is a very pale cream color. Turn the oven off, open the oven door, and leave it slightly ajar. Allow for the meringue to cool completely inside the oven. The meringue should feel firm to the touch, but if you gently press it, it should crackle a bit, and the inside will be soft and have the consistency of a marshmallow. The meringue can be stored in an airtight container for a few days before serving.
When ready to serve the meringue, place the meringue on a serving platter, and prepare the whipped cream with the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla extract. For best results, I find that it helps to chill the bowl you're going to use in the freezer until it's cold. Whip the cream so that it forms soft peaks; you want to be able to spread the whipped cream easily, so don't over-whip it! Gently mound the soft whipped cream into the center of the meringue shell, distributing it evenly. Arrange the mixed fruit of your choice on top of the cream. Serve immediately, and enjoy!
Serves about 6-8.