This week's SMS was chosen by Patty of Birding Blossoms and Baking: pavlova peach melba. A pavlova is basically a meringue-based dessert with a delicate, crisp crust and a sweet, almost marshmallow-like center (it was tough to capture this contrast in photo, but I tried below). Typically a pavlova is served with whipped cream and fresh fruit; here, the recipe called for peaches with a fresh raspberry sauce. The dessert is simplicity at its best - you start by whipping egg whites, slowly add superfine sugar and beat until stiff peaks form and finally, fold in just a bit of cornstarch, white vinegar and vanilla extract. Then the pavlova is baked at a fairly low temperature (250 F here) for over an hour before turning off the oven and letting the pavlova cool completely in there.
I almost didn't bake this one because I wasn't sure it would be eaten, but I scaled back and made a tiny version as I so often do. I baked 1/4 of the recipe, which means I used only 1 egg white to make this entire dessert, along with just 1/4 cup of sugar and less than a teaspoon each of the cornstarch, vinegar and vanilla. It's pretty amazing to me what an elegant desert can be created with so few ingredients! Also, relative to most of the desserts I make, this one is fairly healthy :) I wish I'd been able to find better fruit at the store, but since I couldn't I used both frozen peaches and raspberries and both worked well here. Frozen peaches were actually a great find - I've never bought them before, but they held their shape very well when defrosted, and it saved me the hassle of having to peel and cut up peaches. I skipped the whipped cream (even though I absolutely love the stuff) just because I was already making this at the last minute and it was an extra step. The baking time for my mini was only about 10 minutes less than the full size dessert and I used my largest cookie cutter (about 3.5 inches in diameter) to draw the circle that acted as the guide for my pavlova.
Even without the whipped cream, I really enjoyed this dessert! The contrast between the crisp exterior and the soft marshmallowy interior was wonderful and the combination of peaches and raspberries was a successful one. Lots of thanks to Patty for hosting this week! You can find the recipe on her blog or in the Sweet Melissa Baking Book.