I'm pretty much always suspect of the idea of authenticity on the Internet and on blogs especially, but when holidays roll around, I am even more aware. Beautifully styled photos are a thing of beauty and something bloggers take a lot of time to create. Why? Because it is visually pleasing and makes things seem really special and unique.
But I can't help but think, maybe it's more important to tell a story. So while yes, I have included a nice close-up of this delicious red, white & blue pavlova, I am also including a not-so-close-up that shows you that I do not have a gorgeous white table and that when the knife comes out, blueberries hit the table and there are babies on my countertops and *gasp* we have both trash bags and tissues in our kitchen.
I can't help but wonder if all these gorgeously styled summer parties are really as beautiful as the photos seem or if in real life, they are just as ordinary (albeit maybe with some really cute details) as life. I guess what I am trying to say is this: Media has an impact. Blogs have an impact. If the story we tell is only one of perfection, we are not being real and we are impacting people negatively because let's face it, we are not perfect.
Let me be clear. Life is beautiful and styled photos are wonderfully inspiring. Photographers love the detail shots, but sometimes it's comforting to know that not everyone on the Internet is living the high life, that we are all more alike than it may feel.
And this ties in perfectly with this upcoming holiday, one that should unite us as Americans. I'm honestly not big on holidays, but I have a soft spot for a red, white and blue dessert, ever since my mama used to make angel food flag cakes. This time, I made a pavlova because I'm a curious lady.. I have to say, it has the same familiar flavor as the angel food and if you are craving that pillowy cake, check out this angel food cake with balsamic strawberries from last year. But if you're up for something just as easy, but a little bit fancy, try the pavlova. It's a big meringue topped with lightly sweet whipped cream and juicy berries. There's no denying that!
Red, White & Blue PavlovaMakes one large pavlova - I used strawberries and blueberries, but you could change things up with raspberries, cherries, plums, pluots or peaches - the original recipe called for superfine sugar, but with cane sugar, I saw very little texture problem, however the arrowroot powder has a tendency to make things a little gummy, which I did experience here.. I would recommend going with cornstarch and will do that next time.
For the meringue:
1/2 cup cane sugar
1 1/4 tsp. arrowroot powder (or cornstarch) (see headnote)
2 egg whites (absolutely no yolks)
pinch of kosher salt
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
For the whipped cream:
1 cup heavy cream
1-2 Tbsp. powdered sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
For the macerated berries:
1/2 cup sliced strawberries
1/2 cup blueberries
1 Tbsp. pure cane sugar
1. Preheat oven to 275 F. Prepare a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Sift together the cornstarch (arrowroot, if using) and sugar. Separate the eggs (save the yolks for homemade ice cream), making sure that there is NO yolk in the white (they will not whip correctly if yolk is present).
3. In a large bowl, whip the egg whites on low for a couple of minutes, until bubbly and frothy. Increase the speed a bit and slowly add in the sugar/cornstarch mixture. Once the meringue begins to look glossy, start checking for peaks. Once you have soft peaks, add the vanilla extract and a pinch of kosher salt. Keep beating until you achieve firm peaks. Be patient on this step. It could take 10 minutes or more.
How to check for soft/firm peaks:
Stop your mixer, leaving the beaters in the egg whites. Lift the beaters out of the egg whites and turn the beaters upside down. If they leave a peak like a mountain and it flops over, you have soft peaks. Keep beating. If the mountain peaks stay firmly up, you have firm peaks and are good to go.
4. Once you have firm peaks, carefully spoon (I like a rubber spatula for this) the meringue onto your prepared parchment paper in a circle about 8 inches in diameter, making it a bit thicker at the edges.
5. Bake the pavlova for 70-90 minutes, until it is hard on the outside and not toasted. It should just be lightly beige. Turn off the heat, crack the oven door and let cool inside the oven to room temperature. Remove the pavlova and decorate.
6. While your pavlova is cooling in the oven, make your whipped cream and macerated berries. In a small bowl, add your prepared fruit and a tablespoon of sugar and leave about 30 minutes, until the juices of the fruit release. To make fresh whipped cream, add 1 cup whipped cream to a larger bowl (or you can totally do this with an immersion blender in a cup) and begin beating. Once it starts to firm up, add powdered sugar to taste. Once the whipped cream is ready, do not whip it more or you will have the beginnings of butter. Refrigerate it if you need a little more time.
7. Assemble your pavlova. Top the pavlova with the whipped cream (you will use it all) followed by the macerated berries and their juices. Dig in right away! (If you'd like to make the meringue and whipped cream a day ahead, feel free. Make sure to refrigerate the whipped cream and store the meringue in an airtight place - I stuck it on top of a muffin tin that I had a lid for. I'd recommend waiting to macerate the berries and assemble until just before serving.)