Pavlova & Pink Grapefruit Curd
Sometimes you go simple, and sometimes you go grand, this was one of the grand times. Meringue wows every time. It's like a cloud you can touch, and melts into a sweet syrup with the warmth of your mouth. Paired with the tangy, slight bitterness of pink grapefruit curd and plump cherries, it's truly unforgettable. Aside from whipping a bowl of egg whites for a long long time, this recipe is really not that hard and can be made in advance so it's a great desert for passover or any other special occasion.
My love affair with Meringues can be credited with spawning my more than 2 decades-long career in food. One of my earliest memories is of watching my mother pull a tray of pillowy meringues the size of my 7 year old head out of the oven one morning, after they had spent the entire night drying out at a very low temperature. The meringues were magical, glowing and back-lit from a window in our little apartment. At the time, my mother baked out of our home as a side job, making desserts for a local restaurant. At my request, she sat me on the counter next to the kitchen aide mixer, and showed me how to whisk the egg whites and cream of tarter, spooning sugar into the fluffy egg whites a tablespoon at a time with painfully long pauses in between each addition. We lined cookie sheets with torn up brown paper bags, little pencil marked circles guided the shaping of meringue cups, disks or kisses. I soon mastered the technique and learned to pipe the meringue with her canvas pastry bag fitted with a large star tip.
Meringue became my childhood signature contribution at family gatherings, especial for passover seders where all foods had to be free of leavening like yeast or baking powder, as well as flour other than matzo meal. I remember inventing new shapes, cutting berries and whipping fresh cream with vanilla and only a hint of sugar to top the crisp sweet meringues. Sometimes the meringue middles would ooze sugary syrup if I didn't dry them properly, but no one seemed to mind, and some may have even preferred them that way.
The beauty of the pavlova recipe is that it's really just a huge pile of whipped egg whites and sugar, so it takes no time to pipe into designs, and any cracks or breaks can easily be covered up with whipped cream, citrus curd or fruit, so it will still look fabulous. Don't be intimidated by meringue, if I could do it when I was a kid, you can certainly take a good stab at it!
The other thing I love about meringue is that it is probably as far away as you can get from the foods of slavery and the exodus. It's delicate, filled with the richness of eggs and sugar, but also light and decadent. I appreciate the contrast of this etherial dessert at the end of the passover seder and meal as we have been reflecting on oppression, striving to look towards what is possible in liberation and the sweetness of life, not only for ourselves, but for all people.
Alos, writings from the past on my former blog, Tagan's Kitchen:
Passover: A Time for Reflections on Slavery and Racism
Pavlova with Pink Grapefruit Curd, Grapefruit & Cherries
Classic Pavlova recipe by Alice Medrich (with a few added notes from me)
- 1 cup (7 ounces) sugar, preferably superfine
- 1 ½ teaspoons cornstarch
- 4 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar or ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional)
- Position a rack in the center of the oven for a single large pavlova, or in the upper and lower thirds for individual pavlovas, and preheat the oven to 275°F. Trace a dark 8-inch circle on a sheet of parchment paper (an upside down pie tin or plate works great for this) and flip it over on the baking sheet. Or, for individual pavlovas, line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- To make the meringue: If your sugar is not superfine, spin it in the food processor for 15 seconds. Mix the sugar and cornstarch together thoroughly.
- Combine the egg whites and the vinegar or cream of tartar in a large clean, dry bowl and beat at medium-high speed (with a stand mixer) or at high speed (with a handheld mixer) until the egg whites are creamy white and hold a soft shape when the beaters are lifted. Gradually add the sugar mixture a heaping teaspoon at a time, taking 2 ½ to 3 minutes in all; you should have a very stiff, creamy meringue.
- For a single large pavlova, scrape the meringue onto the traced circle and use a long metal spatula or a rubber spatula to sculpt the mass into a low dome—smooth or swirly, it’s up to you. Bake the pavlova for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until it is slightly golden brown with a distinct pinkish-beige hue and feels crusty on the surface, though it will be marshmallowy inside. If it’s cracked on the surface, that’s okay.
- For 8 individual pavlovas, scoop 4 equal portions of the meringue onto each lined baking sheet, spaced well apart. Sculpt each portion into a small dome, about 4K inches in diameter. Bake for 1 hour, until the pavlovas are golden pink and crusty on the surface and marshmallowy within, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through the baking time.
- Set the baking sheet(s) on a rack to cool completely (pavlovas may sink a little). If you are not serving the pavlova(s) the same day, cover the meringue(s) loosely and leave at room temperature; it keeps for several days. If it is rainy or humid, you may want to wrap the meringue in plastic wrap or put it in an air tight container to keep it crisp.
To assemble the dessert: Top with grapefruit curd, grapefruit segments and cherries just before serving. Alternately, whip 1 cup of heavy whipping cream with 1 teaspoon vanilla and a spoon of sugar just until it starts to thicken and hold a shape. Top pavlova with cream and any berries of your choosing.
Pink Grapefruit Curd
Recipe by Tagan Engel
4 large eggs
3/4 cup fresh pink grapefruit juice
2 teaspoons grapefruit zest
1/2 cup sugar
6 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
2 pink grapefruits
1/2 to 1 cup frozen dark cherries (thawed) or from a jar, strained
- Zest one grapefruit and reserve 2 teaspoons of zest for curd. Cut ends off of both grapefruits. Set fruit on one of the flat ends and use a knife to slice the skin off of the round edge of the fruit from top to bottom. Once all the skin is removed, hold the fruit in your hand (over a bowl to catch the juices), slice the fruit as described below and use the juice you catch from cutting the segments as well as from squeezing the remaining pith and pulp after the segments are removed. If needed, squeeze one half of the grapefruit for the 3/4 cup juice needed to make the curd. Reserving the rest of the segments for topping.
- Place a mesh strainer over a bowl, to be used when the curd is done cooking.
- Whisk eggs and sugar in a non-reactive thick bottomed (and ideally also thick sided) sauce pot. Add zest, juice and butter, and whisk thoroughly.
- Set pan over medium heat and stir constantly with either a whisk or wooden spoon, making sure to reach into the corners of the pan. When the mixture starts to thicken so that it coats the back of a wooden spoon well it is done.
- Pour the lemon curd through a mesh strainer set over a bowl. Push curd through the strainer and discard any solids that remain. Cover with plastic wrap, or transfer to a jar with a lid and refrigerate until chilled. Curd will thicken as it gets cold. It will keep in the fridge for at least one week.
Seasonality Note: This recipe works well during the winter when there is an abundance of citrus fruit shipped into our region, and when frozen fruit is a great back up when fresh berries and stone fruits are scarce. If you are making this at another time of year, you can swap out the fruit for whatever you desire.
Have you made meringues before? Please share your thoughts.
Also, what foods in your life or culture represent struggle or liberation,
either for passover, or another holiday?