Mum and I made challah last week!!! For those of you who don’t know, challah is a Middle aEstern bread — there’s a lot of contention regarding its origins, so I’m not going to get into specifics. Basically it looks like a plump braided slug, and has the softest crumb. This is my first attempt at making a loaf, and I felt so accomplished, I worried I might not get anything else done the rest of the week.
It’s hard not to hibernate when I’m here, especially when it’s raining so heavily and I’m cozy as a bug in a rug. But my sisters are in town, and I’m determined to milk them of all their culinary expertise, so stay tuned.
But first, here's a layered pavlova that was also my birthday ‘cake’ when I turned 14. It was a really special day because mum had invited my friends from school, and my cousins from out of town and we had a party by the sea. I wore a pink ruffled skirt and I think there are some pictures of it somewhere, I’ll have to dig it out.
I think mum chose to make this instead of a traditional cake because she knows how I feel about cakes. Sure, it’s a little bit trickier than your regular cake, but it’s so much prettier, and rather sophisticated, if you ask my 14-year-old self.
The key is to make sure it isn’t too sweet — the berries on top, cut through the sweetness and the richness of the cream anyway. Next time, we’ll try making a balsamic glaze to drizzle over the fruit, I’m sure that would add another dimension of flavour. I’ll report back, if I do. Meanwhile, give this one a go.
Layered Strawberry Pavlova
6 egg whites
1 cup sugar
2 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups whipped cream, sweetened with sugar to your taste
500 g strawberries, sliced (keep a few uncut to decorate the top)
Beat the egg whites in a spotlessly clean bowl till it becomes frothy.
Start adding the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, till it becomes stiff.
Once stiff, gently fold in the cornstarch and add the vinegar followed by the vanilla extract.
Line two large baking trays with parchment paper.
On each tray, draw two 9-inch diameter circles.
Transfer 1/4th of the meringue into each circle, and gently shape to form a disc.
Bake in a preheated oven at 110 degrees Celsius for an hour.
If the meringue doesn’t easily peel away from the parchment, put back in the oven for 15-30 minutes at 100 degrees Celcius until it does.
Let the discs cool and then remove from the parchment. If not using immediately, put it away in airtight containers for a day or two.
Place a layer of meringue on a serving platter.
Top with 1/4th of the whipped cream, and layer with sliced strawberries.
Repeat with the remaining layers and cream.
Decorate the top with swirls of cream and a few uncut strawberries.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired and serve immediately.