Reader Jack wants to know if lemon curd is the same thing as lemon meringue pie filling. The answer is yes, more or less. Spreadable curd recipes tend to be a bit sweeter and more lemony, since they’re used as condiments. Also they lack cornstarch, which is a common addition to lemon meringue pie filling for the simple reason that it both thickens and provides a little added insurance against over-baking, cracking and weeping. And I suppose if you want to get technical about it, lemon curd is a “stirred” custard whereas lemon meringue pie filling is a ‘baked or “still” custard. Hm…guess they’re more different than I originally thought. I’m addicted to both.
Author Archives: joepastry
My first attempt at a pavlova base and it’s clear I have some work to do. I tried piping this because I liked the idea of adding a lip to the side to made a sort of bowl. I got a little sloppy with it as you can see, but the worst part is the texture, which is like alligator hide.
My temperatures are too low. A crust didn’t get a chance to form before the drying process started, so when the meringue cooled the soft skin contracted and wrinkled. Ah well, I was curious to try it without pipping it anyway. I like the plump, bulgy look better than the straight sides anyway.
Several readers have written in to ask if the thick meringue layer that forms the base of a pavlova can be made ahead of time. The answer as far as I’m aware is no, not really. Thin, crispy layers of meringue of the kind that go into marjolaine or vacherin can be kept for several days if need be, but in general thicker, softer layers don’t keep as well. Still I think we need an Aussie or a Kiwi to weigh in on this and give us a definitive answer. Little help anyone?
Reader Vicki wants to know if she can use stabilized whipped cream for the filling. She also wants to know what the heck whipped cream stabilization is and how it works. Vicki, the answer to your first question is yes (though some purists might complain). As far the second, I’ll need a little space to answer it. You may or may not know about how whipped cream works, a full explanation for that is here. Basically, whipping creates a layer of free fat molecules which coat air bubbles and keep them from popping.
Stabilization works by reinforcing those air bubbles. The firmness of the fat — and hence the integrity of the bubble coatings — is heavily dependent on temperature. So the longer whipped cream sits at room temperature the softer the coatings get and the more the bubbles begin to pop. The whipped cream starts to sag. Stabilization works not by adding firmness to the fat, but rather to the watery medium that surrounds the fat. Gelatin, for example, adds a firming lattice of protein to the water, keeping the fatty structure upright even as it softens. You get a similar effect with cornstarch (corn flour). Even sugar works as a stabilizer by forming a syrup with the water, creating a more viscous bubble medium with a lower surface tension.
Of all the common stabilizers, gelatin lasts the longest, though in most cases sugar is enough to keep whipped cream aloft for a good hour, provided it’s not too hot outside!
Oh there’s quite a lot of difference, reader Melanie. Wax paper is basically tissue paper with a wax coating applied to the outside. It’s nowhere near as tough and useful as parchment. Parchment is a thick (or at any rate thick-er) paper that’s been passed through an acid bath to increase its rigidity and give it a hard, smooth, glossy surface that resists just about everything. Most of the time parchment is also coated with silicone to give it extra stick-resistance.
The result is an all-purpose kitchen paper that stays strong, even when it’s wet or covered with grease, and that won’t melt or catch fire, even in a 550-degree oven. In short it does everything wax paper can do, only better. While you can buy it at most any grocery store in rolls, I prefer to buy it from King Arthur Flour in pre-cut flat sheets which I store on top of my refrigerator. Whenever I need one I just grab one, and because the sheets aren’t curled I don’t have to wrestle them to keep them flat. I also have a stack of 9″ parchment cake circles which, in addition to lining cake pans make handy parchment saucepan lids. Oh there’s no end to the utility of this stuff…
I used up my blogging time with my youngest, little six-year-old Joan Pastry, who opened up her eyebrow playing at summer camp yesterday. The urgent care clinic got her (literally) glued back together…amazing what we can do nowadays, no? Anyway, trying to get back on track today. Thanks for your patience!
Can we just say “from the English-speaking peoples living south of the equator” and leave it at that? Because lordy, this has been a point of contention between the Aussies and the Kiwis for about 40 years now. I hesitate to dip my toe into these shark infested waters, but what the hey. My tea is strong and my resolve is up.
What no one disputes is that pavlova is a sweet named for a ballerina, one Anna Pavlova, a principal dancer in the Imperial Russian Ballet in the last years of the 19th century. In 1905 she left the Imperial Ballet and formed her own company, with whom she toured the world until her death of pneumonia in 1931. During the twenties she toured Australia and New Zealand at least twice. Her skilled and sensational performances engendered honorifics of all kinds, many of them edible.
Some were little gelatin desserts. Others were tiny coffee-flavored meringue cookies dotted with nuts. Still others were large meringue cakes consisting of a single large layer of meringue covered with whipped cream and fruit. Of course the latter versions have come to be accepted as the definitive pavlovas. But where were they first created? In Australia or New Zealand? And by whom? That’s been the rub for decades, and as with so many long-standing arguments related to food, there’s still no absolutely final answer to the question.
The reason: because both the Aussies and the Kiwis were making and eating meringue cakes decades before they’d ever heard of Anna Pavlova. Some of them were large, some small. Some had two layers, some had only one. Some had cream on them, some had fruit, some had both. Indeed the antipodean regions were something of a brew pot of meringue desserts in those days, which only stands to reason since baked meringues had been popular in the English-speaking world as far back as the mid-1700′s.
However that didn’t stop an Australian chef by the name of Herbert Sachse from claiming he invented the particular meringue cake called the pavlova in the year 1935 while he was working at the Esplanade Hotel in Perth. That claim, made in 1973, would lead to an international tiff lasting decades. Cries of protest went up in New Zealand almost immediately. And indeed in fairly short order a recipe was produced for a single-layer meringue cake called a “pavlova” which originally appeared in a New Zealand cookbook, Daisy Basham’s Daisy Chain Cookery Book, published in 1934.
At first that seemed to settle the issue, but soon Australian diehards began to complain that true pavlovas contained ingredients (fruits, vinegar, cornstarch or whatever) that Basham’s pavlova didn’t have. While she may have put a thick meringue layer and the name “pavlova” together, too many essential components were missing to award Basham the prize of Official Inventor of Pavlova Proper.
Then in the 1990′s the smoking gun was finally found: a book called The Rangiora Mother’s Union Cookery Book of Tried and True Tested Recipes. In it were complete instructions — supplied by one Mrs. W.H. Stevens — for a full-on pavlova including a meringue layer, whipped cream and fruit on top. The place of publication, New Zealand. The year of publication, 1933. Which completely ended the debate.
It had no vinegar, it was baked in a form, etc., etc.. I’m not going to render judgement here, for it seems to me that it makes very little difference who first put the name “pavlova” on a type of cake that had been popular (in various forms) on both sides of the Tasman sea for decades before Anna Pavlova was even born. Clearly, the pavlova — like most of the world’s enduring foods — is a cultural invention that both nations can claim credit for. Or am I just being too wimpy-PC about this whole thing? Please, no extended comments as life is short.
Reader Nick wants to know why there’s acid (in the form of vinegar) in the meringue recipe below. An excellent question and one I very recently addressed when I was making angle food cakes a few weeks ago. So instead of putting up another post I’ll just refer you there!
Pavlova is little-known here in the States, but it’s the apple pie of Australia and New Zealand. Here’s my version which hews pretty close to the standard (there’s not much room to move where meringue is concerned). Toppings can be all over the board, though fruit is traditional. You’ll need:
8 egg whites, room temperature
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
14 ounces (2 cups) sugar
1 ounce (4 tablespoons) cornstarch
one double recipe Chantilly cream
Preheat your oven to 325° degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and trace a 9-10″ circle on it using a pot lid. Grease it lightly and sprinkle it with cornstarch (corn flour).
Put the egg whites, salt and vinegar in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a whip. Stir together the cornstarch and the sugar. Whip on medium to (very) soft peaks, then turn the machine up to medium high and whip in the vanilla and the sugar mixture in a small, steady stream. Whip to stiff peaks.
Scrape the mixture onto the parchment, into the circle you drew, gently shaping it into a cylinder about 2 inches high. If possible try to make the outside of the circle slightly higher than the center.
Immediately put the meringue into the oven. Bake it for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 225 and bake for another 1 1/2 hours. At that point turn off the oven and open the door. Let the meringue cool completely.
When ready to serve, place the meringue disk on a serving platter. Prepare the Chantilly cream and pile it on top. Add any fruit you like for a finishing touch. Passion fruit puree is traditional as are strawberries in berry weather.
Reader Paul writes:
OK so here I am with three pastry school interns making Boston Cream Pies. One of them asks, “If this is a two-layer sponge cake filled with pastry cream and topped with a chocolate glaze, why is it called a pie?” My answer: “Durned if I know, but I’ll ask Joe”. So I’m asking.
Hey Paul! That’s a funny question. All I can say is that it’s one of those conundrums that probably has no real answer. There’s no question that in reality Boston cream pie is a cake, a pudding cake to be precise: two layers of sponge enclosing a whipped cream center. Legend has it that Boston cream pie was “invented” by a French pastry chef named Sanzian, an employee of Boston’s famous Parker House Hotel, in 1855. As the story goes he was looking for a way to dress up a business-as-usual English-style cream cake, a confection that had been around in America for about 100 years by that time. His solution was a chocolate glaze, something that would have been trendy then, since melt-able bar chocolate was relatively new. He dubbed it “Boston cream pie.”
Why? No one really knows, save to say that the terms “cake” and “pie” were a bit more, shall we say, flexible then. “Washington pie” was a dessert of that period, and it likewise consisted of two layers of spongecake around a sweet center, in that case some sort of fruit filling. To me it seems entirely possible that for some Americans a “pie” was any sort of filling enclosed between baked “crusts”, be they short or sponge. That’s just speculation of course. Hope this helped!
…the encased meats, which were also a key feature of the vacation. Get up there among all those North Europe-descended yoopers and Wisconsinites and no matter where you go the sausages are outstanding. I forgot how good kielbasa and eggs is for breakfast, or how almost poetic Braunschweiger can be when it’s lovingly smoked. Wow. Even the hot dogs were buttery and delivered in links. That, my friends is good eating.
Also, please be patient as I get back into my baking groove. When you’re gone for ten full days there’s lots to catch up on. I spent four hours today just answering all my email and responding to backed up comments. I haven’t even mowed the lawn yet!