Generally there isn’t too much pressure on me to bring a dish to Christmas gatherings – my mum said that we could bring something if we liked, but maybe I should get The Boy to make it (thanks mum). I spent a while thinking about what I could make to prove my worth as a pot-luck lunch participant, without treading on the toes of anyone who has already claimed a speciality. Thankfully this choice was made easier after I volunteered to make brandy custard for The Boy’s family dinner on Boxing Day – what do you do with all those leftover egg whites? Make pavlova of course!
For those of you who aren’t from Australia and aren’t familiar with the pavlova (often affectionately nicknamed ‘pav’), it is a meringue based dessert with a crisp exterior, but a soft marshmallowy center, typically topped with fresh cream and fruit. There is some debate about whether its origins are Australian or New Zealandian. I am not sure why a dessert that requires the oven being on for over an hour is considered a good idea for summer, but thankfully we had an unusually cool Christmas this year and it wasn’t too much of a hardship.
I used this Taste.com.au recipe, but ended up having to substitute some ingredients which I didn’t have on hand. I can tell you that mung bean flour acts as a pretty good stand-in for cornflour, as strange as that might sound. I may have been a bit ambitious in piling the mixture tall and mighty – this was to be a king amongst pavlovas! Unfortunately I must have removed it from the oven a bit too early (Rookie Pav Error #1), as when I tried to move it later the top caved in to reveal that the interior had sunk to half the height of the shell.
I ended up cracking down the top shell to the level of the insides, then trying to patch things up a bit with whipped cream. A tumble of fresh cherries and shavings of dark chocolate served as a distraction from the imperfections. I had a quick taste and thankfully, despite my substitutions and dubious eyeballing of measurements, everything was as it should be.
I was so pleased with my efforts that I actually bothered to attempt some styling, and I’m actually proenhance and weight loss quite happy with how quick and easy it was to put together some basic shots using a piece of plywood on my coffee table, a reflector and the wonderful morning light coming through our living room windows. The unfortunate result of decorating the pavlova so early (Rookie Pav Error #2) was that by the time it was actually ready to be eaten, the shell had gotten a bit soft and sad! Thankfully no one seemed too upset by this, and the whole thing went fairly quickly without complaint. I think maybe I have my own Christmas special dish sorted!
The in-laws had been gifted a Heston Blumenthal Hidden Orange Christmas Pudding, which I insisted must be served with brandy custard. To be honest I’m not sure I’ve ever had real brandy custard before – I have vague memories of pouring a lurid yellow concoction that tastes vaguely like YoGo out of a carton, but that’s about it. Of course that wouldn’t do for this fancy, expensive Christmas pudding, so I took my leftover egg yolks and made a proper custard.
I’ve had trouble with making custard before, but thankfully this Taste.com.au recipe was pretty straightforward and suffered (once again) my substitution of mung bean flour for cornflour and cutting back dramatically on the sugar. The result was a thankfully natural and pleasant yellow colour and a thick but pourable consistency, which was the perfect accompaniment for the extremely rich and sweet Christmas pudding. I may have added a little too much brandy, but is there really such a thing at Christmas time?
I wouldn’t normally bother to take photos of such a simple dish, but I like the complement of the pavlova and the custard, the egg whites and egg yolk, so brandy custard shots were needed to complete the set. If you’re wondering at how pale the brandy looks in these photos, that’s because I drank it all (oops) and had to substitute with tea for these shots.
I’ve been so busy lately that I’ve barely bothered with cooking, let alone styling and photographing food lately – but I found myself really enjoying making these dishes, and taking photos of them. I’m hoping to get back into the habit, at least on weekends, so hopefully you’ll see much more home cooking on the blog in 2014!