I believe every party should have at least one mystery guest, so as I usually do at the U-C Dinners I asked a couple of my friends to bring friends nobody at the party knew. Nancy brought Pauline, a neighbor with whom she became fast friends after they discovered they were both food writers, and she made this amazing Pavlova with Passion Fruit. I’ve had strawberries and raspberries, but never passion fruit…and was it great! No wonder–Pauline has completed a family cookbook (as well as Young Adult novels) and obviously knows her way around a kitchen. The tart passion fruit with its gooey texture was perfect with the meringue and whipped cream, and we all wondered aloud why it isn’t used more often in a pavlova. You mustmustmust try Pauline’s pavlova…and also check out http://www.artsbeatla.com, her site that keeps us all up-to-date on the cultural goings-on in LA.
4 egg whites
Pinch of cream of tartar
1 cup superfine sugar
1 teaspoon cornflour
1 teaspoon white wine (or champagne) vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence (or scrape the seeds from a dried vanilla pod)
About ½ pint heavy cream, whipped
Pulp of 2 or 3 passion fruit
1 or 2 bananas, sliced or sliced strawberries (optional)
Preheat oven to 250 degrees for at least 10 minutes before cooking. Have all your ingredients measured and laid out before you commence (mise en place). Eggs should be at room temperature and carefully separated, with no trace of yolk (perhaps make some chocolate pots de creme, sabayon or mayonnaise with those yolks).
Whip egg whites and cream of tartar, building to high speed, until they are stiff. Gradually add the sugar, a little at a time, beating well to dissolve each addition.
Add the cornflour with the last bit of sugar. Meringue will be smooth and glossy.
By hand, gently fold in the vinegar and the vanilla, lifting as you go to preserve the fluffiness of the meringue.
Pile the meringue in the middle of a cookie sheet covered with lightly greased parchment paper, shaping the mixture into as high a dome as possible. Meringue will expand a little bit and crack as it is cooking. It may also sink a bit in the middle once cooled, but that’s the part you fill with cream.
Bake for 1½ hours. Turn off heat and let cool in oven for three hours.
When cool, decorate with whipped cream (lightly sweetened with powdered sugar and vanilla essence) and passionfruit pulp. If you care to go overboard, top with fresh, sliced strawberries or sliced bananas, too.