Almond Pavlova with the Season's First Cherries
Nutty, Brown-sugar Meringue, Whipped Cream, Juicy Fruit and Caramelised Nuts
Before all the Pavlova purists out there jump down my throat because my meringue is not white, I know. OK. Now I've got that out of the way, and you've calmed down, I'll continue with my story. Some of you may have read last week that I am worried about my good, childhood friend Sheena who has just found out she has cancer. She had a scan at the end of last week and she is nervously waiting the results. I have been thinking about Sheena a lot over the last six days. I have so many good memories that she is a part of. My life is richer because of her place in it.
As I teen, I was part of a girly gang of five. Collectively, our favourite dessert was undoubtedly Pavlova. Either we or one of our mothers would make it one way or another and there would never be any leftovers. My own mother always made it from a recipe in a Marks & Spencer Dessert Cookbook we owned, usually topping it with whipped fresh double cream and kiwi fruit. I would make the same recipe favouring raspberries and bananas. Sometimes we would even cheat and buy the pre-made meringue nests that are available at every British Supermarket. [Marks & Spencer's fancier version, if they still stock it, is irresistable.] Sheena's mum always used Nestle's tinned cream and halved green grapes on her Pavlovas. I am not sure if it is my imagination, or reality, but something makes me she think she used brown sugar too.
Salad Days, Pavlova Days, all rolled into one. The more I thought about our teenage adventures, the more I had to make a Pavlova this weekend. The fact that I saw cherries at the market for the first time this year spurred me into dessert-making action and because Sheena and I had a mutual adoration of marzipan that no one else seemed to share at the time, I decided to pair those plump, dark red spheres of red juciness with their match made in heaven, almonds.
Almond Cherry Pavlovas
2 egg whites, room temperature
1/4 cup Bakers[US] or Castor[UK] sugar
1/4 cup Soft, Light Brown Sugar
1/8 cup Ground Almonds
1/2 teaspoon Distilled White Vinegar
1/2 pint of whipping or double cream
2 cups fresh cherries, stoned
1/2 cup flaked almonds
1 heaped tablespoon Bakers[US] or Castor[UK] sugar
- Preheat theoven to 250F
- Whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks
- Slowly beat in the 1/2 cup brown/white sugar until the meringue is thick & glossy
- Gently fold in the ground almonds and the vinegar
- Spoon the meringue onto a silpat-lined baking sheet, forming four nest-like circles
- Pop the meringues into the oven for 35 minutes
- Turn the oven off, leaving the meringues there for at least 1.5 hours or overnight
- Whip the cream until it thickens to the consistency of a soft, pillowy cloud*
- Put the flaked almonds and 1 heaped tablespoon sugar into a small skillet
- Heat to medium whilst stirring constantly
- After a few minutes the sugar will start to caramelise
- Keep stirring to coat the nuts
- Once all the nuts are sticky and golden, remove from the heat to cool and crisp
- To serve, assemble meringue, then cream, cherries and finally almonds
* Note: I do not like to Chantilly-ise my whipping cream. I don't think whipped cream needs the addition of sugar in most desserts. I like whipped cream to be a cool creamy, contrast to the other sweeter elements.
There are hundreds of possible ways to assemble a Pavlova. It's a pretty easy-going dessert. What's going to top yours?
PS Honey-colour-tanned meringue is just as good for the soul as white.