I'm not quite sure how it happened, but it seems Passover snuck up on me when I wasn't looking. It seems like it was just a week ago that I was happily baking hamantaschen to celebrate Purim, and yet the calendar is assuring me that a whole month has passed since that little culinary adventure.
So, as we always do, The Boy and I ventured forth to suburbia for the annual Passover extravaganza, our contribution to the feast in hand - a two-layer brown sugar pavlova filled with rhubarb curd and fresh strawberries.
Actually, it wasn't really in hand, but rather oh-so-carefully cocooned in a box, cushioned as best as possible by layers of tissue and cloth, and carried forth with the greatest of delicacy lest its fragile contents end up shattered, spilled or otherwise damaged.
By the time we arrived, my fingers had frozen into a clawlike shape from holding the box, my knees were quaking from the anxiety, and my nerves were frazzled.... but the pavlova was still intact. It was a victorious moment - probably not quite as victorious as, say, Moses reaching the other side of the Red Sea with dry sandals, but a small miracle nonetheless.
So, the moral of the story is that pavlova is probably not the right dessert to make if you have to figure out a way to cart it through Toronto transit during rush hour. I mean, it'll impress the hell of out everyone, but sponge cake with compote will probably be less stressful. :)
However, assuming you don't have to travel much further than the distance between kitchen and table, a pavlova is the perfect dessert when you're pressed for time. You can easily make the various components several days in advance - the curd should keep about 3-4 days in the fridge, while the meringue keeps almost indefinitely if wrapped in paper towel and stored in a cool, dry place. Assembly should be delayed until the very last minute, though, to ensure a crisp melt-in-your-mouth meringue rather than a chewy, soggy mess.
Credits: While this combination is the result of a random flash of inspiration, I do want to give a nod to Ginger Tablet for her recipe for rhubarb curd which served as a jumping-off point for mine (all kudos go to her, while any complaints should come to me).
Brown Sugar Pavlova with Rhubarb Curd and Strawberries
Brown Sugar Pavlovas
8 egg whites
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp corn starch*
1 tsp vanilla extract*
3 cups fresh or frozen rhubarb
3 tbsp pomegranate juice
6 egg yolks
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup unsalted butter
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 lb strawberries
Preheat oven to 250F. Cut two sheets of parchment paper to baking sheet size and draw an 8" circle on each one, using a round cake pan as a guide; place on baking sheets, marked side down.
Using a mixer, whisk the egg whites until white and glossy. Continue whisking and slowly add in white and brown sugars, one spoonful at a time. Once sugar has been completely incorporated, fold in the vinegar, corn starch and vanilla.
Divide the egg whites into two equal amounts and dollop out onto the prepared cookie sheets. Using a rubber spatula, gently smooth out each mound into the marked circle, building up the sides slightly to create a gentle indentation in the middle. Bake in preheated oven for 90 minutes, or until just set in the centre; turn the oven off and allow the meringue to cool in oven with the door closed for at least an hour or overnight.
Combine the rhubarb and pomegranate juice in a small saucepan over low heat. Simmer until rhubarb starts to break down into a pulp, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and, using an immersion blender or food processor, process into a smooth puree. Set aside.
Whisk together the sugar, eggs and salt in a heat-proof bowl until pale yellow and thick. Set over a pot of simmering water and slowly stir in the rhubarb puree, whisking constantly. Continue cooking until mixture is thick and smooth, about 10 minutes - be sure to keep on whisking, or else you'll end up with scrambled eggs! Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and butter. Set aside to cool.
Pick out twelve pretty strawberries for garnish - hull and set aside. Slice the remaining strawberries.
Place the first pavlova disk on a large serving plate. Spoon out half of the rhubarb curd into the centre of the meringue; top with the sliced strawberries, followed by the second pavlova. Use the remaining curd to fill the centre of the second pavlova.
Arrange the reserved whole strawberries in a ring around the outer edge of the curd. If you happen to have any broken pavlova pieces, crumble them and sprinkle overtop. Serve immediately.
* Note: If you're serving this dessert for Passover, the following changes should be made:
- Substitute 1 tsp potato starch or ½ tsp cream of tartar for corn starch
- Use a kosher for passover vanilla extract, or omit entirely