Just flew back from a WILD trip to Dallas this past week. Stayed with friends, enjoyed great company, great food, … Vanilla Ice, Ninja Turtles.. drunkenly prank calling some of my MasterChef “prison buddies” with Matt Orsini (remember him from my videos?).. and more. Truly epic trip.
One thing that I was particularly looking forward to, was meeting Ben Starr for the first time. As you may recall, Ben was my “Haymitch”, as I prepared for my brief stint on MasterChef. I realized this week that it’s been almost a year and a half since first contact!
After I arrived in Dallas, we planned to meet up on our second last night in Dallas – he would have my husband and I over for dinner, along with John – one of our friends that we were staying with. I was honestly kind of nervous – meeting people always makes me nervous, but Ben was even beyond that – someone I owed a good chunk of my sanity to, over the whole course of the past year and a half.
I don’t *ever* get star struck, but apparently I DO get “Starr” struck!
So, with a few hours to go before dinner, I texted him to once again ask if there was anything I could bring, hoping that I could get my mind off of “Man, I wonder what this whole thing would have been like, if I’d never contacted him”. I offered to bring dessert, and he accepted. Yes! Distraction!
Relief soon turned to stress, as I realized that I was in a kitchen that was not my own, with no real access to grocery stores, not a whole lot in the way of available ingredients, and only a few hours to go. Yay for speaking before thinking things out, eh?
We’d purchased the stuff to make a bananas foster bread pudding the following day – erring on the side of too much in the way of ingredients, as I hadn’t created the recipe yet. I quickly worked things out and could tell I had enough to make a bit of bananas foster… and I could easily make a pavlova. Done and done – and Pavlova IS my favourite dessert ever, afterall. Less than 10 minutes later, the pavlova was in the oven, and the wonderful aroma of bananas foster was wafting off the stovetop.
The hour+ drive to his house, I was so nervous. Would I say something stupid? What if I got really emotional about the last year and a half and just bawled on sight? What if he really hated my dessert?
Then, he answered the door in his underwear. I’d actually been so nervous I didn’t even notice, til he pointed it out. We laughed, and my social tension disappeared!
His business partner – from his underground dining venture, “Frank” – Jennie was there. They were both all kinds of awesome. Later on, Ben’s partner Christian arrived, and HE was all kinds of awesome. The whole evening was unbelievably awesome, and yes – I know I’m overusing awesome. IT WAS AWESOME. So much laughter. Such great food! An illicit absinthe collection, a chicken on the table… good times!
Anyway, I could yap all day about that evening (Did I mention that we had an AWESOME TIME?)… but I’m here to share a recipe!
So, here’s the bananas foster pav. Contrary to my early worries, it went over VERY well with the others!
This recipe is a bit different from a normal pavlova, in that I swap out half of the white sugar, for brown. This changes the texture – the inside of the meringue ends up almost cakey! It’s delicious, and is naturally gluten-free. Also, as has been road-tested… it’s a great recipe to pull out as a last minute sure-to-impress dessert!
Ok, I’m going to go get some sleep now…
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Pavlovas are my absolute favorite dessert of all time! They’re basically a type of large meringue – one which is crispy on the outside, and like a marshmallow on the inside! – heaped with whipped cream, then topped with fruit. Does it get any better? No. No, it doesn’t!
Nice light texture, and a wonderful way to enjoy fresh fruit. Perfect summer dessert for entertaining, and this is a really easy recipe for anyone.
A quick head’s up though – if your meringue is not cracked by the time you remove it from the oven, it will likely crack at some other point, and will almost certainly crack when you start garnishing. Don’t worry! Totally normal, no one will notice or care!
4 large egg whites
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
Fresh Fruits & Berries **
Get ready: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Remove eggs from fridge and allow to warm to room temp (about 5 minutes). Line a baking (cookie) sheet with parchment paper, and set aside. Fit your electric mixer with the whisk attachment.
In your mixer bowl, beat egg whites together with salt until glossy peaks form. Slowly add in the sugar, and continue whipping until stiff peaks form. Turn off mixer, remove bowl.
Sprinkle vanilla**, vinegar, and cornstarch over meringue, gently fold in till combined.
Heap meringue onto the center of your baking sheet. Use a spatula to spread the meringue out to approximately an 8-9″ circle. I like to have my meringue a fairly even depth throughout – some like a mound, some like it to be a little concave. If you want to get really fancy, put the meringue into a pastry bag and pipe it out as a mass of swirls that form your 8″ circle! It’s really up to you!
Put the baking sheet into your oven, and turn the temperature down to 250 degrees. Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes. Once your timer goes off, turn the oven off and let the meringue cool in the oven for several hours. The baking of the meringue can be done the day before, if needed!
Just before serving, whip the heavy cream. I like my pavlovas a little sweeter, so I add about 2 Tbsp of sugar – add as much or as little as you want. Purists may not want to sweeten the cream at all! I also like to add a little flavoring, again – optional
Mound the whipped cream on your pavlova, and top with fresh fruits. Serve immediately!
Serves 4-6. (Or 2 Pavlova fanatics!)
* Super fine / castor sugar is granulated sugar with a much finer grain size than regular granulated sugar. It is NOT powdered / icing sugar! Super fine sugar is usually sold near the sugar in the baking aisle, in small boxes – sometimes resembling milk cartons. If you aren’t able to find actual super fine sugar, you can process regular granulated sugar in your food processor until fine. Measure AFTER you process!
** The possibilities for flavoring your pavlova are endless! Here are some of my favorites:
– Rum flavoring in the meringue and whipped cream. Top with sliced bananas, mango, and toasted coconut.
– Almond flavoring in meringue and whipped cream. Top with strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries, garnishing with fresh mint leaves if available.
– Substitute half of the sugar with light brown sugar. Use rum flavoring in the meringue & whipped cream. Top with cooled bananas foster and pecans!
– 1/4 cup cocoa in the meringue, 2-3 tablespoons cocoa in the whipped cream, top with raspberries (Sometimes marinated in Chambord!), drizzle with chocolate sauce. Great for Valentine’s Day!
One caveat, however: You cannot use oil-based flavoring in your pavlova meringue. Its presence will cause the meringue structure to break down.