We’ve been binge-watching the Olympics for two solid weeks at House Morell. I’m not at all ashamed to admit we lounged about staring at the screen nearly every single evening. You name it, we watched it. Hours of coverage of every possible sport. I couldn’t get enough of the stories of these impossibly fit and accomplished young people from around the globe. So inspiring. And can I say it’s hard to make the case that we need to “Make America Great Again.” We ARE great. Seriously people, our athletes rocked it.
But the Games are over (sob), and it’s terribly quiet around here, so let’s drown our post-Olympics blues by indulging in this awesome pav.
The peaches have been absolutely perfect in Virginia this summer – lusciously sweet and juicy. I’ve carted home loads of them every time I wander to the farmer’s market or the grocery store and (if they survive being eaten whole) popped them in salads and smoothies and over pancakes and in peach crisps. But I believe they’ve been happiest nestled in pillows of salted caramel whipped cream in this pavlova. Or perhaps I was happiest eating them in this form.
I’ve gushed about my Australian friends and their pavlovas before, but I was once again inspired by this lovely piece on pavlovas posted on one of my favorite blogs – Dinner A Love Story – last week. As Aussie guest author Vanessa Holden says: “There’s something magic about a pav — it makes any gathering a celebration. Something about their flamboyant piled-high swooshiness that says Wow! We’re here! Isn’t this great? I love you! Isn’t this fun?! For us, it’s a dessert that makes any get-together special, but not fancy, decadent but not overdone.”
This quote struck me because it sums up how I’d like all my entertaining to be…food that is delicious but not fussy. Yes, my pav cracked a bit upon assembly, but it still looks fabulous in all it’s messy rustic-ness. Our guests gushed.
When not lounging about watching the Olympics, we’ve been entertaining almost constantly this month. Special, but nothing fancy, lots of grilled stuff and goodies straight from the farmer’s market arranged on platters and served family style. One night we hosted a make-your-own BLT gathering for a group of 20-somethings. Upon reflection, I probably needed a second toaster for that evening, but no one seemed to mind the toasting and sandwich making delays.
That’s the way we roll around here – a seriously laid-back approach to entertaining. It’s been a great month for eating and visiting with friends. We’ve laughed over culinary near-misses – one night the grill was completely engulfed in flames when the lamb sausages popped out of their casings splattering grease that created a towering sausage inferno. Wielding extra-long tongs, my husband somehow managed to dramatically rescue them from the flames and they were served (a bit crispy, but delicious all the same).
I love to feed people. And, while it’s usually simple fare, I like to throw in at least one element that is truly decadent – often the dessert.
Pavs can be made with any combination of fruit and whipped cream, layered on meringues. Over the years, I’ve made chocolate pavs, strawberry pavs, mixed berry pavs, and apple caramel pavs. Really, pavs can work with any fresh seasonal fruit – or even with a bit of lemon curd. To show off those fabulous peaches, I dusted them with a bit of sugar and pumpkin pie spice (it may sound odd, but the same spices you love with pumpkin work beautifully with peaches, trust me.)
You can whip a bit of liquor or chocolate into the whipped cream mixture or leave it sweetened with a touch of sugar… In this case, I added half a cup of salted caramel sauce into the mix and paired with the peaches, the results were quite stunning.
Let me encourage you to invite a few friends over, serve some lovely food from your local farmer’s market and end the evening with this pav. They’ll love you for it.
A few things I’m crushing on at the moment:
I’m ready to book a ticket to Rio. Waves of nostalgia washed over me every time those panoramic views of Corcovado and Copacabana came over the screen during the Olympics – even though I haven’t been there in over 30 years. I’m way overdue for a visit.
My brother’s new restaurant opened and he’s rocking it. If you live in Chicagoland, you must visit it… if you can get a table.
I love this list of 15 ways to catch up with your friends that aren’t grabbing coffee or a cocktail. (Though I’m a big fan of both coffee and cocktails.)
I’ve had a few favorite books this summer: The Secret Life of Violet Grant, The Summer Before the War, The Hummingbird, The Storied Life of A.J. Finkry and Amy Snow top the list. What have your favorite reads been, dear readers?
Salted Caramel-Spiced Peach Pavlova
- ¾ cup superfine granulated sugar
- ¾ cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
- ¾ cup egg whites (from 5 to 6 large eggs) at room temperature 30 minutes
For the fruit:
- 3 cups peaches
- ¼ cup superfine sugar
- 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
- 1 ½ cups chilled heavy cream
- ½ cup chilled sour cream or mascarpone cheese
- ½ cup salted caramel sauce (I used Trader Joe's brand)
Make the meringues:
- Preheat oven to 275°F.
- Place parchment paper on two cookie sheets. Using an 8-inch cake pan as a guide, trace a circle with a pencil onto the parchment. Flip the parchment over (you should still be able to see the pencil markings through the parchment.) Set aside.
- Pulse superfine sugar, brown sugar, cream of tartar and cornstarch in a food processor and pulse until the brown sugar is fine and the mixture well-combined.
- Stir together vanilla and vinegar in a small bowl.
- In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt at medium speed until they hold soft peaks. Increase speed to medium-high and add sugar mixture 1 tablespoon at a time. After all sugar has been added, beat 1 minute more. Add vinegar mixture, then beat at high speed until meringue is glossy and holds stiff peaks, about 5 minutes. Spoon meringue onto the circles and smooth tops.
- Bake until meringues have a crisp crust and feel dry to the touch, about 1 hour (insides will still be marshmallow-like).
- Turn oven off. Cool meringues in the oven 1 hour. (Meringues may sink slightly and crack while cooling.)
- Carefully peel the meringues off the parchment (meringues will be fragile and the crust may crack further).
- Macerate fruit while the meringues are baking:
- Toss the peaches with the superfine sugar and spices and let stand at room temperature until ready to use (up to 1 hour).
Make the cream:
- Beat heavy cream with the sugar and sour cream or mascarpone cheese using an electric mixer until it just holds soft peaks. Add the salted caramel sauce and mix to combine.
Assemble the dessert:
- Put one meringue on a pie stand, spoon a generous portion of whipped cream on top of it, then arrange the peach slices in concentric circles. Carefully place the second meringue on top of the first layer, then repeat the process. Serve immediately. (If I'm serving it for a dinner gathering, I assemble the elements just a few minutes before the guests arrive.)