|Pavlova with Poached Apples and Caramelised Verjuice Syrup|
This is another in a series of new recipes I've developed using Verjuice (available at Woolies), and I hope you'll give this recipe a bash, even if you're mortally afraid of making anything involving temperamental meringue.
My attempts at making billowing pavlovas and snowy, crisp meringues were spectacularly flat, sticky failures for many years, but eventually I nailed them, and I haven't had a flop since. I hope my method works for you - and it it doesn't, please drop me a line on Facebook so I can assist you.
Pavlova with Poached Apples and Caramelised Verjuice Syrup
For the Pavlova:
5 extra-large free-range eggs
a pinch of Cream of Tartar
250 g caster sugar
2-3 drops of good almond extract
For the filling:
5 large crisp apples, peeled, cored and quartered (I've used both Granny Smith and Golden Delicious, with good results)
1½ cups (375 ml) Verjuice
½ cup (125 ml) caster sugar
1 cup (250 ml) whipping cream
¼ cup (60 ml) flaked almonds, lightly toasted in a dry frying pan
First make the Pavlova. Heat the oven to 160 ºC, fan off. Separate the eggs and place the whites in a spotlessly clean bowl together with a pinch of Cream of Tartar (you'll find this in the baking aisle of supermarkets). Keep the yolks for making mayonnaise.
Using an electric beater or a food processor fitted with a balloon whisk, beat the egg whites for 2-3 minutes, or until they are standing up in firm - but not dry - peaks.
Add a third of the caster sugar at a time to the whites, whisking well for a few minutes between each addition. When you've added all the sugar, drop in the almond extract, to taste, and continue beating for another 3-4 minutes, or until the meringue is very thick, firm and shiny (with no sign of grittiness when you rub a blob between your fingers).
Your mixture should hold its firm billowing shape without drooping. If the meringue seems thin or floppy, your Pavlova will collapse in the oven, and you'll need to chuck out the mixture and start all over again.
Line a baking sheet with lightly oiled baking/greaseproof paper (put little blobs of meringue on four points under the paper to stick it down). Draw a plate-sized circle on the paper, spread a third of the meringue mixture over it to form the base of the Pavlova, then place big, generous dollops of the remaining meringue around the edges to form a basket. A huge metal spoon is the right utensil for this.
Place the baking sheet on the middle rack of your preheated oven, and immediately turn the heat down to 110 ºC (oven fan off). Bake for an hour and a quarter, then switch off the oven (don't open the door!) and let the meringue case dehydrate, undisturbed, for at least 8 hours, or until it is crisp and dry. If you'd like a Pavlova with a slightly squidgy centre, let the case dry out for 6 hours.
To prepare the apple filling, put one cup of Verjuice and the caster sugar into a pan. Bring to a gentle bubble, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Add the apple quarters and poach, covered, for 9-11 minutes, or until they are just soft. Set aside to cool completely.
To assemble the dessert, remove the apples from their syrup with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the remaining ½ cup of Verjuice to the syrup, turn up the heat and boil over a medium-high heat for 10 minutes, or until the syrup has reduced by about two thirds, is turning to an amber colour, and is thick, glossy, and producing plenty of big lazy bubbles. Watch the mixture like a hawk – you want it to be just on the point of caramelising.
Whip the cream until it's thick and billowy, pile it into the Pavlova and arrange the apple pieces on top. Drizzle the hot syrup over the top, scatter with toasted almonds and serve immediately.