Balsamic Berry Pavlova

With the first day of summer upon us, I can feel the pastry potential humming in the balmy New York air.  Are you ready to try something new in the kitchen?  Challenge yourself to create the feathery beauty of a pavlova.

The pavlova cake dates back to the early 1900’s, when Russian ballerina and choreographer Anna Pavlova began touring America, Europe, and the UK.  In 1911, she founded her own ballet company that was the first to tour ballet around the world.  Notice the parallels to her graceful dancer form in the soaring, fluffy pavlova dessert.  Her tutu truly looks like a billowing round of meringue cake!

The strength of the pavlova’s meringue base, coupled with its sweet strawberry topping lends itself to the same complex beauty of the powerful ballet dancers that wear airy, silky tutus.

If you manage to make this cake, you’ll feel pretty glorious and get this blissful look in your eye.  The process can be intimidating, but if you start practicing now, you can only improve.  Even prima ballerinas have to start somewhere!  In the case that you over-whip your meringue, you’ll still be left with a delicious dessert of whipped cream and balsamic berries.

There are many parallels between the pavlova form and the moves of a ballet dancer.  Arrange a loose, wide meringue, like this move, or mound the meringue tall and tight, as if it were a dancer pulling her arms in tight for a spin.

Scroll down for the recipe!  Unleash your inner baker-ballerina.  Bakerina, if you will.

Balsamic Berry Pavlova (originally seen in the New York Times)

For the Meringue

Ingredients:

  • 4 egg whites
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 ¼ cups superfine sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon white-wine vinegar
  • A few drops vanilla extract

Instructions:

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and draw a circle on the paper using an 8- or 9- inch cake pan as a guide. Flip the parchment over so the pencil marking is facing down (this ensures that the pencil won’t transfer to the meringue).
  3. In bowl of an electric mixer, combine egg whites and salt. Begin beating at low speed, slowly increasing to high. Continue until satiny peaks begin to form; gradually beat in sugar a tablespoon at a time until meringue is stiff and shiny.
  4. Sprinkle in cornstarch, white-wine vinegar and vanilla, and fold in gently.
  5. Mound onto parchment within circle, and shape into a disk, flattening top and smoothing sides.
  6. Place in oven, and immediately reduce heat to 300 degrees. Bake 1 hour 15 minutes. Turn off heat, and allow meringue to cool completely in oven.

For the Topping

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved or quartered
  • ½ teaspoon high-quality vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon high-quality balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons superfine sugar
  • 2 cups heavy cream

Instructions:

  1. In a mixing bowl, combine strawberries, vanilla, balsamic vinegar and sugar.
  2. Cover with plastic wrap. Let sit at room temperature at least 15 minutes and up to 2 hours.
  3. Whip cream until it is thick enough to hold peaks.

To Assemble: 

Carefully peel off parchment and place meringue on a platter or cake stand. Gently crack the top with the back of a soup spoon to make a shallow nest for the whipped cream and berries. Spoon cream evenly over meringue. Cover cream with strawberries, allowing a small amount of their liquid to dribble onto cream. Serve immediately.

Berry Cupcakes and Bucket Lists

I had a mini-crisis as I was putting together this cupcake recipe.  The berries were just too good on their own.  It almost felt like it was disrespecting the berries to mix them up into cupcakes.

It’s that time of the year when even the berries at your shadiest local bodega are gorgeous angels.  I infused this buttercream frosting with a natural raspberry jam and simply garnished the cupcakes with the beautiful berries in order to maintain their vital integrity.

How do you inject summer adventure in your life when professional goals and routines are running rampant?  Just like infusing a buttercream frosting, you have to choose ingredients wisely and blend well.  I recently concocted a summer bucket list of sweet distractions that will see me through until September.

  1. First of all, I want to visit this boat graveyard on Staten Island.  The haunting and moody images captured by South Korean artist Miru Kim have me wanting to plan a visit, the drearier the day, the better.
  2. A week ago I passed by some colorful walls in SoHo and saw a sign for a mural art class… has anyone done this?  I need to find out more!  In the meantime, I’ll be thinking of some insightful and provocative imagery to scrawl onto buildings and freight cars.
  3. In honor of my birthday, I want to make a pavlova, a meringue cake usually topped off with whipped cream and berries.  Fun fact, the pavlova is apparently named after a Russian ballerina.  I’m most likely going to try out this recipe!
  4. I need to finally get that tattoo I’ve been talking about since last year!  Looking into my crystal ball, 80-year-old Hadley of the future finally approves.  That is all.

Add these strawberry raspberry chocolate cupcakes to your June pastry repertoire, and you won’t regret it.  Each bite is a little burst of summery inspiration.  Snack on them while you’re writing your own summer bucket list!

Scroll down for the recipe.

Strawberry Raspberry Chocolate Cupcakes

For the cupcakes (makes about 24 mini cupcakes):

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/3 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk

Instructions:

  1. Heat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Beat together the butter and the sugar.
  3. Add eggs and vanilla extract
  4. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder, and salt.
  5. Gradually add the dry mixture to the butter/sugar mixture, alternating with the coconut milk.  Stop mixing once well incorporated.
  6. Fill lined cupcake containers 2/3 full with the batter.  Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

For the frosting: 

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 cup softened unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoons raspberry jam
  • 1 tablespoon strawberry jam
  • 1 drop red food coloring, if desired

Instructions:

  1. Beat the butter in a stand mixer until light and fluffy
  2. Gradually add the confectioners sugar
  3. Add jam and food coloring.  Beat until well incorporated.

Wait until the cupcakes cool to add frosting.  Garnish with raspberries and strawberry cutouts, as desired.