Sunday, March 2, 2008

Basic Gluten-Free Baking.

Berry Pavlova.

My brother's fiance is a Celiac. Meaning she can't have anything with wheat in it. That means no cakes, cookies, muffins, waffles, pasta, anything with wheat in it. Whatsoever.

As long as they have been dating, I've used this opportunity to do some gluten-free baking. It's not as hard as it might seem. Mostly I stick to naturally flourless things, such as meringues, flourless chocolate cakes and cookies, though sometimes I do venture into various flours and substitutes (chickpea flour, almond flour, tapioca starch, xanthan gum). When I heard they were coming for dinner the other day, I immediately though of a pavlova. They remind me of spring and summertime and we all need some of that here right now.

I was introduced to the pavlova by one of my favourite cookbook authors Nigella Lawson. This is a variation on her recipe from Feast.

Berry Pavlova.

Pavlova recipe adapted from Feast by Nigella Lawson

Meringue base:
8 large egg whites
Pinch salt
2 1/2 cups superfine granulated sugar
4 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 tablespoon Amaretto (I use this in place of vanilla extract in everything gluten-free that I make)

Whipped cream topping:
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar

Fruits of your choice (I used blueberries, raspberries and blackberries!)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites and salt until soft peaks form. Then add the sugar a few tablespoons at a time until it's all incorporated and stiff peaks are formed. Fold in the cornstarch, vinegar and Amaretto (or extract) and then pour this onto the parchment-lined baking sheet, forming about a 10-inch circle in diameter, smoothing out the top. Put this in the oven and immediately turn the temperature down to 300 degrees F, then bake for an hour to an hour and a half, or until there are cracks around the rim. Then turn the oven off, open the door and let it cool completely.

You can try to take this off the parchment and put it on a platter, but I find it easier to take a platter, and then INVERT the pavlova onto it, and then peel off the parchment. Meaning the bottom of the meringue is then the top, where the cream will go.

When the pavlova is completely cooled, whip the cream and sugar until soft peaks form, and dollop generously over the meringue. Then scatter the fruit (or pile, in my case) all over the cream. This is a messy dessert, but it's SO delicious and fun to eat. Great show stopper also, if you're looking to impress someone special ;)

Berry Pavlova.

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