Sunday, September 28, 2008

Pavlova Redux

This somewhat messy dessert was for a party last night. This time we decided to take it fully formed - in the car for about 7 miles.

So we wrapped Madame in an apron, spread a towel over her lap, and bundled her into the car. When she was well situated, I gave her the cake stand with Pavlova on top for her to hold while I drove, gingerly, to the party.

We got there intact, much to our surprise and then came time for the dismount. I opened the passenger side door and tried to pry the cake stand and dessert from Madame's death grip. She was holding that sucker as if her life depended on it. I had these visions of being attacked by "the claw" afterwards. Fortunately her hands loosened up to grab onto a champagne glass and order was restored.

The dessert seemed to be a success, it was set upon by the gannets at this wonderful party.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Pavlova is a dessert made from meringue, whipped cream and tropical fruit. It is very simple to make and looks spectacular.

Ingredients: Meringue base

4 egg whites (making sure that there are no traces of yolk)

1 cup superfine sugar (granulated sugar pulverized in the food processor)

1t white vinegar (do not use cider or wine vinegar)

2 t corn starch



Put the egg whites into the very clean bowl of a stand mixer. Best if the whites are at room temperature. Mix them slowly to break them up, and then beat at high speed until they form stiff peaks. Continue to beat while adding the sugar a little at a time. You know when they are done when if you rub a little of the egg white/sugar mixture between your fingers it doesn't feel gritty. Sprinkle the corn starch and vinegar over the surface and fold in to the mixture with a spatula.

On a sheet of parchment paper, place the meringue mixture in a circle, with the edges mounded higher than the center.

Bake on center rack of the oven set at 250F for about 75 minutes, and then allow to cool in the oven with the door ajar and the oven off.

This can be done a day or 2 ahead. Just store the cooked shell in a cool, dry, covered place.


Ingredients - Filling/topping

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

4t granulated sugar

1t pure vanilla essence

Some (total about 2 cups) of fruits - include at least one tropical fruit (e.g. mango). Choose among Kiwi, mango, raspberries, blue berries, peaches, nectarines, strawberries. Make sure there is a good mix of colors.


Chill a medium mixing bowl in the freezer. Whip the cream in the chilled bowl until it is floppy with soft peaks. Cream whips better when cold. When whipped add the sugar and vanilla, whip more to incorporate. Be careful not to overwhip or you will have sugary/vanilla flavored butter.

Chop the fruits into raspberry sized pieces - trying to have the fruit even in size. Leave the raspberries whole.

Fill the center of the meringue base with whipped cream and decorate randomly with the fruits.


Serve immediately (it will hold for about 2 hours, but the meringue does go a bit soggy after that.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Lamb, pita and the grill

The bread compulsion continues. I thought it might be fun, interesting, delicious,… to make pita. I have taken to putting a pizza stone onto the racks of the outdoor grill and cranking the heat up. That's what pita needs anyway. Of course with pita you must have lamb, lettuce, onion, tomato, tzaziki and cheap red wine. That was dinner yesterday.

First the pita.

Pita is pretty easy to make. Takes some kneading, but nice and straightforward – wuick too.


500 gm bread flour (although next time I may use AP flour, it was a wee bit chewy)

325 gm room temp. water

1 ½ t active dry yeast

2T Olive oil

2 t kosher salt.


When using active dry yeast, you need to hydrate it a bit first. You can't just dump it into the flour and hope. So stir the yeast into the water. Leave for the time it takes to weigh the flour. Add the water/yeast to the flour. Mix together and add the olive oil. Continue to until it has all come together. Turn out on to the work surface and knead until the mass is cohesive. About 2 minutes. Then add the salt – simply sprinkle onto the dough and knead smoothly and vigorously for 10 minutes. The dough should become shiny and elastic.

Transfer to your fermentation container and leave at room temp for a couple of hours (until doubled). If it is going quicker than you want, retard it in the fridge for a bit.

After it has risen, dump it out of the container onto the work surface. Pat the dough into a rectangle – about 8 inches by 5 inches (size doesn't matter here). Cut the dough into 8 pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a circle, and leave to rest on a lightly floured parchment lined baking sheet. Flour the top of each ball lightly and cover with plastic wrap.

Heat the grill with a pizza stone on it until the temperature is around 550 degrees. You will want to use low heat and letthis take at least 30 minutes – preferably an hour.

Rest the dough balls until they have increased in size by about half. Taking each ball, flatten it gently on the floured work surface, flour a rolling pin and roll the individual dough balls out until they are 6-8 inches in diameter. Transfer 2 dough rounds to a baker's peel or upside down baking sheet (having sprinkled some cornmeal onto the peel or sheet to prevent sticking)

Slide the dough rounds onto the hot pizza stone, and close the lid. Cook for 60 seconds – the sheets should puff up. Flip them over and give them another 60 seconds. The timing is not precise, so check carefully. When done transfer to a wire rack and cook the remainder – 2 at a time. For a final warming (if you want) sprinkle each pita with a little (few drops) of water and put back in the hot grill for a few seconds – while the meat is cooking.

Grilled lamb pieces

These are cut to go nicely into the pockets of the pita, above. For the 2 of us, I used about 1lb leg of lamb cut into ¾ inch cubes.


1lb leg of lamb in ¾ inch cubes

1 cup olive oil

A handful each of marjoram and oregano roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves

Salt and pepper to taste.


Season the lamb. Mix the herbs, olive oil and garlic together. Add the lamb to the marinade and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours. Remove from the fridge and let stand for at least 30 minutes to warm up. This helps it cook more evenly.

When ready, grill the lamb pieces over the hot part of the grill, moving it around to limit flare-ups. Flaring is inevitable because of the olive oil. After a couple of minutes, the flare-ups stop and you can leave the meat to get nice marks from the grill.

Leave to stand while you tear some lettuce leaves, warm the pita and chop some tomatoes.

Serve with the pita/lettuce/tomatoes/tzaziki/raw onion and a bottle of light red wine – we had a chilled Beaujolais costing all of $7 per bottle!