Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Pink Hibiscus Pavlova

The day before I left New York for Sweden, Julie and I went to East Village and browsed one of the Indian stores there. We were on the hunt for something interesting, and there I found dried hibiscus flowers (and she found romantic lavender). I didn't know then what I would do with them, but I wanted them.

The first thing I did with the hibiscus was to make a drink with vodka, which was nice, but then I read Desert Candy's recipe for hibiscus pavlova and was sold. What better dessert to make for midsummer, I thought!

Pavlova is basically a chewy meringue cake doused with whipped cream and berries. I've made one every year for the past 3 years for my sister's birthday - Nigella's chocolate pav, and it's delicious, chocolatey and almost guilt-free.

On midsummer day, my husband and I ground the dried hibiscus flowers into a powder, which took 30 minutes of grinding and coughing insanely as the powder snuck into our nostrils. Yes. That's because we have only a mini-food processor, but it did the job, eventually. A spice grinder would have been ideal or you can look for hibiscus powder.

We loved the way the hibiscus added a tang and tartness to an otherwise over-sweet pavlova, so we were very pleased with it. Plus the cotton-candy color and chew in itself is so glorious.

Hibiscus Pavlova
Adapted from Desert Candy
Serves 8-10

4 egg whites
A pinch of salt
1/2 cup sugar
3 tbs hibiscus powder
1 tsp vinegar
1/2 tsp vanilla

Vanilla scented whipped cream
Berries scented with rose water

1. Draw a 9-inch circle on parchment paper with a pencil, then turn over and arrange on a baking sheet.
2. Preheat oven to 180C or 350F.
3. Grind the hibiscus flowers and strain the powder to avoid big lumps.
4. Separate eggs (you can make mayonnaise or custard out of the egg yolks) and put the egg whites in a clean, grease-free bowl. Add a pinch of salt and blend until the mixture turns white and fluffy.
5. Gradually add the sugar. Stop beating when the mixture is stiff and has confident stiff peaks, and when you rub the mixture with your fingers and find that it is not grainy from the sugar.
6. Add vinegar, vanilla and hibiscus and fold gently.
7. Mound the pink mass onto the parchment circle.
8. Put into the oven and reduce heat to 130C or 220F. Bake for an hour until it's dry on top but slightly springy in the center, then turn off oven and let it cool in the oven completely.
9. Mound with whipped cream and macerated rosey berries.

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