Monday, 2 May 2016

Easter Lemon Pavlova

I love spring.  It is possibly my favourite time of year (although autumn is a very close second).  I just love the sunshine without it being too hot; I like that most of the bugs are still asleep; that there are daffodils and tulips and crocuses everywhere; the colours; and that all my favourite Easter chocolates are available to buy!  It just makes me so happy.

Okay, so spring in Scotland isn't entirely like that.  This last week we had several days where it alternated between sunshine and hail every 30 minutes.  We even got snow the other day.  Not really what you would expect at the end of April.  Well, that's not true.  Did you know it has snowed more times on Easter Monday than on Christmas Day in the UK?  So if Easter had fallen this week we would be continuing that trend.  However, it fell early this year (which made for a more bearable spring term at school) towards the end of March.  It was a lovely week.  Lots of sunshine, although there was the occasional early April shower.

As is becoming a bit of a tradition, the mother-in-law hosted an Easter lunch (which was also a last-time-we-see-you-before-we-go-on-holiday-for-10-days meal - they went away, not us).  I was in charge of dessert!  I love that.  I knew I wanted something light and happy looking.  I wanted to steer clear of chocolate cake because that is heavy and dark and not really suited to spring.  I wanted spring colours and flavours!  Lemon is definitely a spring flavour in my mind.  Spring colour too.  My sister had suggested a lemon drizzle cake (because that's her favourite sort of cake) but I ended up finding something I liked better: lemon pavlova.  It looked fancy, would be sweet and tangy and would be light...if I could do it.

Those of you that have stuck with this blog the last few years know that meringue is one of my nemeses when it comes to baking (ganache being the other).  I understand the principle of how it goes together and the cooking process but it has so often gone wrong.  I have been trying to practise it more.  Lack of this on the blog shows it is generally not very successful, though it is getting better.  I think I've got a handle on both Swiss and Italian meringue by now.  It's just been the French kind that still gives me trouble.  But I am nothing if not persistent.  I was going to give it a shot.  It was Mary Berry after all and there was a good chance she would not lead me astray.

And for the most part, this is true.  My meringue actually turned out really well.  It tasted AMAZING (sorry but I am going to boast about that because I don't get to say that about meringue too often).  It was crisp on the outside but so so soft and fluffy inside.  Dare I say, it was perfect?  The only thing that went wrong is that I broke a little bit of it when I was trying to see if it would come away from the paper (you can see the slightly collapsed side in the picture above).  I was beyond pleased.  Unfortunately, it does not mean I have finally mastered the elusive meringue.  Last week I tried making a meringue roulade and it collapsed on me, having clearly been undercooked and tasted like eggs. Bleh!

High off my successful meringue, I was hopeful going into the filling.  However, my luck started to run out here.  I ended up attempting it twice, and twice it did not turn out quite right.  For some reason, this lemon curd recipe would not thicken for me and I ended up with an awful lot.  And when I added it to my cream, everything just turned to liquid.  I tried firming it up in the fridge but to no avail.  In the end, I used what I had.  The meringue was reasonably well sealed so most of the filling stayed in.  It did set after an hour or so.  And it tasted great!  I was left with a fair bit of it though.  However, I realised it didn't need to go to waste as it was basically a custard ice cream mix so I threw it in the ice cream maker and the the Hubby has been happily devouring it since.

So despite a few hiccups, this turned out really well.  And it is DELICIOUS.  As I said, the meringue is crispy on the outside but beautifully soft inside.  The tangy lemon balances the sweet meringue perfectly and it is so easy to eat.  There were 5 of us at the meal and we ate the whole thing.  Yum yum!

Recipe - adapted from Mary Berry via BBC Food

Candied Lemon Peel
  • 100g/3.5oz caster sugar, plus extra for covering
  • Zest of 4 lemons cut into long strips
  • 6 egg whites
  • 350g/12oz caster sugar
  • 2 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp cornflour
Lemon Curd Filling:
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 350g/12oz caster sugar
  • Juice of 4 lemons
  • 225g/8oz butter
  • 450ml/0.75pints double cream
  •  24 chocolate mini eggs
  1. Make the candied peel first as it needs time to set.  Put 100ml/3.5fl.oz of water into a saucepan along with the caster sugar.
  2. Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve the sugar. 
  3. Add the strips of lemon zest to the pan and simmer for 2-3 minutes, until the mixture turns syrupy.
  4. Drain the lemon zest and then lay out on a tray that has been lined with parchment and then coat in more sugar.  Leave to dry in a warm place for a couple of hours.
  5. Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/Gas Mark 3, lay a piece of baking parchment on a tray and draw a 25cm/10inch circle on it.
  6. Put the egg whites into the bowl and whisk on the highest speed of a hand whisk or stand mixer until they are stiff.  Then add generous teaspoons of sugar until the mixture is stiff, shiny and stands in peaks.
  7. Mix the vinegar and cornflour together until smooth and then stir it into the meringue.
  8. Spread half of the mixture inside the circle you drew on the paper.  Put the rest in a piping bag fitted with a rose nozzle and pipe 8 nests around the edge of the circle.  Make sure there are no gaps in between or the filling could leak out later.
  9. Put the meringue in the oven and turn down the heat to 150C/300F/Gas Mark 2.  Bake for 1.5-2 hours, or until the meringue comes easily away from the paper.  It will be a pale creamy colour and may crack a bit but don't worry.
  10. Turn the oven off but leave the meringue inside to get cold.
  11.  Meanwhile, make the lemon curd by putting the egg yolks, lemon juice and sugar into a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water and whisking.
  12. Gradually add the butter, still whisking, until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.  Remove from the heat and leave to cool (It will thicken more as it cools).
  13.  Whisk the double cream into soft peaks then swirl the cooled lemon curd through it. (Try not to overmix it or it will turn runny).
  14. Spoon the filling into the base of the meringue and into each of the meringue nests. (If you end up with more filling than you need, you can put the rest into an ice cream maker to make lemon ice cream).
  15. Decorate by putting 3 mini eggs in each nest and then sprinkling the candied lemon on top.


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