IMBB #16: Summer Fruit Eggstravaganza

Lavender and Pistachio Pavlova

It’s that time again – Is My Blog Burning time, in case you don’t
know – and this month’s host is the Northwestern epicure par excellence Viv of
Seattle Bon Vivant. Viv obviously was craving variety, because she chose one of the most infinitely
adaptable topics imaginable – eggs.
After long and careful deliberation about which preparation would let
my eggs best show off their uniquely ovoid qualities  – after all,
what can’t you make with
eggs? – I settled on a dessert that relies on eggs for its very
foundation. Literally. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it’s a pavlova.

And as a matter of fact, there were three birds I managed to kill with
this stone: apart from using the requisite eggs, I managed to try out a
recipe from a hitherto-unused cookbook, and I successfully tried my hand at a dish
I had never made before. The cookbook I used is called The Herbfarm
, written by Jerry Traunfeld, who is the executive chef at the eponymous Herbfarm Restaurant.
The restaurant, located in Woodinville, Washington (near Seattle – the
home of our host, could that be a fourth bird in the bag?), is
regularly listed among the top 50 restaurants in the world, and serves
a seasonal Northwest cuisine based upon the vegetables and herbs grown
on the restaurant’s own land. The composed herb salads, for instance,
are an integral part of every nine-course menu Traunfeld serves, and
are legendary for taking the kitchen help up to two hours to harvest
every morning. I have never had the pleasure of eating at the Herbfarm,
but since buying the cookbook I have been eager to try
out Jerry’s signature
herb-infused dishes. This pavlova in particular stood out, in no small
part for its inclusion of lavender, my self-confessed goût du moment.

I discovered two things in making this: first, pavolvas are a cinch to
make. The instructions for this look long, but there is really nothing
complicated apart from some arm-exhausting eggbeating. The second
thing, is that pavlovas are very
ephemeral. I baked the shell this morning and filled it early this
afternoon to photograph while the light was still good.
This was about four hours ago, and despite putting the remains in
the fridge, what I have now is a soggy, fluffy, fruit-topped omelette.
You might
be able to counter that by drying the shell out more – for example,
Delia Smith recommends you leave pavolvas in the turned-off oven
overnight to completely harden. Otherwise, just plan to finish it on
the spot (inviting friends over may help). In any case, this is a
delightful and
very summery dessert, and the rich, nutty pistachios complement the
subtle perfume of the lavender perfectly. In fact it’s so good, there’s
really no reason to not eat the whole thing straight away.

Lavender and Pistachio Pavlova
Serves: 8-10
Source: The Herbfarm Cookbook by Jerry Traunfeld

For Lavender Whipped Cream:
2 cups heavy cream

4 teaspoons fresh lavender buds, or 2 teaspoons dried

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup superfine/caster sugar

For Meringue:
About 2 tablespoons butter, for the parchment

1 cup raw unsalted shelled pistachios

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 1/2 cups superfine/caster sugar

1 tablespoon fresh lavender buds, or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried

6 large egg whites (3/4 cup), at room temperature

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

For Fruit:
4 to 6 cups mixed berries and/or
sliced fresh fruit (I used strawberries, cherries, physalis (aka cape
gooseberry) and raspberries)

For Garnish:

Small sprigs fresh herbs, such as mint, anise hyssop, lemon balm, etc

and/or small organic/edible flowers, for decoration

1. Infuse the cream. Bring the
cream and lavender to a boil in a saucepan. Remove from the heat,
cover, and leave to infuse for 30 minutes. Strain the cream through a
fine sieve, stir in the vanilla, and chill until cold.
2. Make the meringue. Preheat
the oven to 350F/180C. Toast the nuts in the oven for about 10 minutes,
or until just smelling fragrant. Cool. Chop 3/4 cup of the nuts until
medium-fine. Trace a 10-inch circle on a piece of baking parchment,
turn it upside down on a cookie sheet, and butter it lightly. Grind
together the fresh or dried lavender with 1/4 cup of the sugar in a
coffee grinder or food processor. Combine this with the rest of the
sugar and the cornstarch, stirring to eliminate any lumps. Using an
electric mixer, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar on high
speed until they form soft peaks. Gradually beat in the lavender sugar,
one tablespoon at a time, allowing about 5 minutes to get it all
incorporated. Continue to beat for 2 more minutes. The mixture should
be extremely stiff. Carefully fold in the chopped pistachios.
3. Bake the pavlova. Turn the
meringue out onto the parchment paper and spread it out to fill the
circle you drew. Form it high on the outside and depressed in the
center. Press the reserved whole pistachios around the outside (and
sprinkle with more lavender, if you like). Put the pavlova in the oven
and immediately reduce the temperature to 250F/125C. Bake for about 2
hours. It should be crisp on the outside but still like marshmallows on
the inside. Remove it from the oven and cool completely. If you’re
serving the pavlova later the same day, keep it loosely covered with
plastic wrap; if you want to serve it the next day, wrap the shell
airtight in plastic wrap and store at room temperature.
4. Fill the pavlova. Whip the
chilled cream with the 1/4 cup sugar until it forms firm peaks. Spread
the cream on top of the meringue, leaving a border of about an inch all
around. Arrange the fruit on top of the cream in an informal manner.
Tuck the garnishes here and there among the pieces of fruit. Serve
immediately for best texture; if you must wait keep it loosely covered
in the fridge for up to 2 hours.