4th of July Patriotic Dessert

I am treating this blogging experience as a way to share my love for baking. I thought it would be helpful to myself and others, if I documented all the tips that I gathered throughout my baking experience. Since I’m a self-taught baker and continue to learn as I go, everything doesn’t turn out exactly how I had planned. This recipe is no exception, but I figured out how to pick up the pieces and still make it into something presentable and delicious.

Celebrating the 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays, especially when I get to bake things in patriotic colors. This year I decided to bake a Mixed Berry Pavlova from Ina Garten’s “Barefoot Contessa at Home”. Ina Garten’s cookbooks are my go to because I can always trust the recipes. I usually prefer not to bake or cook new recipes when I have guests coming over to our place, but her recipes are always a guarantee to be delicious.

A pavlova is a meringue topped with whipped cream and fruit. Here is the Barefoot Contessa Mixed Berry Pavlova that I will be mentioning below.  

In the past, I have only worked with meringues on pies, so this was a new experience for me. After completing this recipe with a few mishaps, I decided to read other recipes to see how their steps could help me in the future. I kept note of the tips I learned while making the pavlova.

When I first drew the circle on my parchment paper, I did it with the side already curled down. I then realized my mistake when I flipped it over and saw the edges were curling up. *Note: Start with the side you want down on the pan to draw your circle. Tip: I found that it would have been better if I did a smaller circle than 9” to be able to make the meringue thicker. It would help later in the process.

Egg whites are always tricky to work with so make sure your mixing bowl is extra clean. Also, be careful to not allow any of the yolk into the whites. This process is very sensitive, so anything out of the ordinary could affect the end result. Tip: When making the meringue, keep the mixer going without stopping. This way you won't lose the air in the egg mixture. To determine the firm peaks without stopping the mixer, you need to see if the whisk attachment is making a ribbon texture. If those ribbons stay instead of disappearing, then it is firm.

Once your meringue is all shiny, sift the cornstarch over the mixture and then add the vinegar and vanilla. Folding, a gentle technique with the spatula, is important to keep in mind during this process. Stirring causes the meringue to lose its air and the goal is to combine without sacrificing the lightness of the eggs.

Now is when you use the circle to a be a guide when transferring the meringue onto the pan. Having the meringue be a couple inches thick will help keep its shape later on.

While the meringue was cooling down, I used that time to prepare the whipped cream and raspberry sauce. I never cook with alcohol, so I did not include the framboise liquor in the raspberry sauce, but it still tasted great.

After the meringue baked and cooled down, I noticed there was a liquid on the pan. Later, I learned this was a sugar syrup, which was totally normal. Cleaning it up with a paper towel or spoon easily solves the issue. Then came the tricky part of inverting the meringue onto the plate. At first I tried to use a large spatula to transfer it onto the plate, but quickly found that wasn’t going to work as expected. The only way I was going to be able to get it onto the plate was to quickly flip it over. Let’s just say the meringue fell apart. 

Left: Flipped Meringue. Right: Spreading Whipped Cream onto Meringue.

Left: Flipped Meringue. Right: Spreading Whipped Cream onto Meringue.

Thankfully, whipped cream can be used to cover it up. It will still have the crunch of the meringue complimented by the creaminess of the whipped cream. If the meringue was thicker, it may have survived better when inverted onto a plate. The whipped cream is a good tool to mask any cracks.

I found it fun to decorate with the fruit and drizzle the raspberry sauce…pursuing my dream of food photography. If you want to capture your piece of art, it is best to take your picture first before serving it, because after that it is all about how good it tastes rather than how it looks. When serving the pavlova, don’t try cutting it with a knife—just use a spoon and scoop it into a bowl. Make sure you have a crowd to help you eat it!

It’s exciting to challenge yourself, be bold, and try the more complicated recipes. Making a meringue may seem daunting, but it is easier than you think. With some baking experience and a good recipe, you can tackle making a meringue for any occasion!