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IMBB #16: Summer Fruit Eggstravaganza

Lavender and Pistachio Pavlova

It's that time again - Is My Blog Burning time, in case you don't know - and this month's host is the Northwestern epicure par excellence Viv of Seattle Bon Vivant. Viv obviously was craving variety, because she chose one of the most infinitely adaptable topics imaginable - eggs. After long and careful deliberation about which preparation would let my eggs best show off their uniquely ovoid qualities  - after all, what can't you make with eggs? - I settled on a dessert that relies on eggs for its very foundation. Literally. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it's a pavlova.

And as a matter of fact, there were three birds I managed to kill with this stone: apart from using the requisite eggs, I managed to try out a recipe from a hitherto-unused cookbook, and I successfully tried my hand at a dish I had never made before. The cookbook I used is called The Herbfarm Cookbook, written by Jerry Traunfeld, who is the executive chef at the eponymous Herbfarm Restaurant. The restaurant, located in Woodinville, Washington (near Seattle - the home of our host, could that be a fourth bird in the bag?), is regularly listed among the top 50 restaurants in the world, and serves a seasonal Northwest cuisine based upon the vegetables and herbs grown on the restaurant's own land. The composed herb salads, for instance, are an integral part of every nine-course menu Traunfeld serves, and are legendary for taking the kitchen help up to two hours to harvest every morning. I have never had the pleasure of eating at the Herbfarm, but since buying the cookbook I have been eager to try out Jerry's signature herb-infused dishes. This pavlova in particular stood out, in no small part for its inclusion of lavender, my self-confessed goût du moment.

I discovered two things in making this: first, pavolvas are a cinch to make. The instructions for this look long, but there is really nothing complicated apart from some arm-exhausting eggbeating. The second thing, is that pavlovas are very ephemeral. I baked the shell this morning and filled it early this afternoon to photograph while the light was still good. This was about four hours ago, and despite putting the remains in the fridge, what I have now is a soggy, fluffy, fruit-topped omelette. You might be able to counter that by drying the shell out more - for example, Delia Smith recommends you leave pavolvas in the turned-off oven overnight to completely harden. Otherwise, just plan to finish it on the spot (inviting friends over may help). In any case, this is a delightful and very summery dessert, and the rich, nutty pistachios complement the subtle perfume of the lavender perfectly. In fact it's so good, there's really no reason to not eat the whole thing straight away.

Lavender and Pistachio Pavlova
Serves: 8-10
Source: The Herbfarm Cookbook by Jerry Traunfeld

For Lavender Whipped Cream:
2 cups heavy cream
4 teaspoons fresh lavender buds, or 2 teaspoons dried
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup superfine/caster sugar

For Meringue:
About 2 tablespoons butter, for the parchment
1 cup raw unsalted shelled pistachios
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/2 cups superfine/caster sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lavender buds, or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried
6 large egg whites (3/4 cup), at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

For Fruit:
4 to 6 cups mixed berries and/or sliced fresh fruit (I used strawberries, cherries, physalis (aka cape gooseberry) and raspberries)

For Garnish:
Small sprigs fresh herbs, such as mint, anise hyssop, lemon balm, etc
and/or small organic/edible flowers, for decoration

1. Infuse the cream. Bring the cream and lavender to a boil in a saucepan. Remove from the heat, cover, and leave to infuse for 30 minutes. Strain the cream through a fine sieve, stir in the vanilla, and chill until cold.
2. Make the meringue. Preheat the oven to 350F/180C. Toast the nuts in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until just smelling fragrant. Cool. Chop 3/4 cup of the nuts until medium-fine. Trace a 10-inch circle on a piece of baking parchment, turn it upside down on a cookie sheet, and butter it lightly. Grind together the fresh or dried lavender with 1/4 cup of the sugar in a coffee grinder or food processor. Combine this with the rest of the sugar and the cornstarch, stirring to eliminate any lumps. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar on high speed until they form soft peaks. Gradually beat in the lavender sugar, one tablespoon at a time, allowing about 5 minutes to get it all incorporated. Continue to beat for 2 more minutes. The mixture should be extremely stiff. Carefully fold in the chopped pistachios.
3. Bake the pavlova. Turn the meringue out onto the parchment paper and spread it out to fill the circle you drew. Form it high on the outside and depressed in the center. Press the reserved whole pistachios around the outside (and sprinkle with more lavender, if you like). Put the pavlova in the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 250F/125C. Bake for about 2 hours. It should be crisp on the outside but still like marshmallows on the inside. Remove it from the oven and cool completely. If you're serving the pavlova later the same day, keep it loosely covered with plastic wrap; if you want to serve it the next day, wrap the shell airtight in plastic wrap and store at room temperature.
4. Fill the pavlova. Whip the chilled cream with the 1/4 cup sugar until it forms firm peaks. Spread the cream on top of the meringue, leaving a border of about an inch all around. Arrange the fruit on top of the cream in an informal manner. Tuck the garnishes here and there among the pieces of fruit. Serve immediately for best texture; if you must wait keep it loosely covered in the fridge for up to 2 hours.

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Reader Comments (30)

Melissa, this looks wonderful! I love the addition of the lavendar in the pavlova. Very nice!
June 27, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterchronicler
This looks amazing, Melissa. I started to do a pavlova and some meringues. I was letting them sit with the oven when my brother (on break from uni) came through the kitchen, turned on the broiler and toasted my meringues! I'll have to give it another go. With lavender, perhaps...
June 27, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterNic
Oh, wow, that top photo is awesome! Made me want to reach into the monitor and grab a slice. Wonderful post. You know, I never discovered pavlova until I married someone who spent 5 years in Australia. I always thought it was a very British-Aussie thing. Interesting to read that a chef in the Pacific-NW of the USA is making them also.
June 27, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterChubby Hubby
Oh, my! What an exquisite creation! Elegant and gorgeous and I can just imagine the delicate meringue with the lavender.
June 27, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterFlaurella
This looks exceptional! It brought back memories of travels through Oz and NZ. I recall that both of these countries claim it as their own. Either way this one is astounding--and from a great restaurant here in the States!
June 27, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterJeanne
Wow. I love pavlova (it ain't Christmas Down Under until you've had a slice of pav!) but have never seen it made with lavender and pistachio before.

And yes, pav needs to be eaten as soon as possible after assembling. Preferably with the biggest spoon you can get your hands on.

Gorgeous photos too. Both of them are magnificent.
June 27, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterAugustusGloop
Hi Chronicler - Thank you! These days I seem to be smitten by a recipe simply by seeing the word 'lavender' in the title... I can't get enough!

Hi Nic - Oh no! I've done similar things myself, to be honest. I always assume I'll be clever enough to check the oven before turning it on - you'd think I'd know myself well enough by now ;) Better luck with your next batch, and it goes without saying that I highly recommend the lavender!

Hi Chubby Hubby - I was also surprised to find this recipe in an American cookbook - I have never run across pavlovas in the US, though they are becoming increasingly popular in Britain (exotic renditions are very en vogue at upscale restaurants). Maybe this signals the start of a pavlova revolution?

Hi Flaurella - Thank you! It's so easy, and deceptively light. The only problem is leaving the oven on for so many hours in the heat of summer - better to plan on a long sunbathing session in the backyard while it bakes!

Hi Jeanne - I know about the raging pavlova war, so I deliberately didn't comment on its origins! Let them fight over the credit - the only thing that matters to me is that it's really, really good!

Hi Augustus - I love that image of a hot Christmas day and a slice of pavlova! So, so different from the usual heavy pies, cookies and eggnog. Someday I'll have to throw an Oz-inspired Christmas dinner, with a barbecue, plenty of cold beer and pavlovas! And I'll be sure to have a really big spoon ;)
June 27, 2005 | Registered Commentermelissa
Hi Melissa, Beautiful post! Meringues are always a problem in the summer. Bakery supply stores sell silica packs to place in a air-tight container to keep all moisture away.
June 27, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterChefdoc
Oh fabulous! Pavlova has been on my to-bake list ever since Zarah Maria of Food and Thoughts suggested it for my left-over egg whites. And, even better, my lavender is in full bloom.
June 27, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterKitchen Chick
It's so bizarre to think of Antipodean fare as "exotic". Next thing you'll be saying that lamingtons and Anzac biscuits are all the rage!

You should do Christmas in July. Down Under they're all the rage cos we get to have roast turkey and all the trimmings in appropriate wintery weather (altho' yes, many people still do have a traditional baked dinner for Xmas in 40C heat. Seems like we can't shake our English roots).
June 27, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterAugustusGloop
hi melissa, what a very pretty pav - scent of lavender virtually wafting through my monitor. lavender, pistachio and summer berries sounds like a lovely combination....
June 27, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterJ
Hi Chefdoc - Normally I don't have to worry about the summer affecting the way I cook, as there's not much summer to speak of here. This year is shaping up to be warmer than usual, however, so maybe those silica packets will come in handy - thanks for the tip!

Hi Kitchen Chick - You can't imagine my envy at your fresh lavender. I would try to grow it on my window sill... that is, if I had a window sill. Let me know if you find any particularly tasty new uses for it!

Hi Augustus - I must have had your reaction when I saw how en vogue brownies were in Britain a couple of years ago! And yes, I think Christmas in July is an excellent idea. Leave it to you antipodeans to take a good thing and make it twice as good. Especially since here we don't have anything else to look forward to that month, unlike those lucky French and Statesiders...

Hi J - I would send you a piece if I could, as long as you didn't mind a little sogginess :)
June 27, 2005 | Registered Commentermelissa
hi melissa! i'ven't been to the herbfarm in years, but i remember every visit--it's every bit as delightful and picturesque as your version of their pavlova. to be frank, i'm utterly crap at making pavlova, but this is definite inspiration.
June 27, 2005 | Unregistered Commentersantos.
Hi Melissa,
your beautiful post just reminded me of an idea, I once had about meringue... The pavlova looks so nice - the fruit mixture and the little flowers are an eyecatching combination! Was it easy for you to find the edible flowers? I once tried to buy some in Munich during springtime, but I wasn't succesful. And not to forget - have fun at your little food-blogger-get-together ;))
June 27, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterNicky
Hi Melissa,

I've never eaten a pavlova before, but it sure sounds/looks so delicious. I'd probably make this and want to eat it all by myself! Everything just looks so fresh....
June 28, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterReid
Hi Santos - You are a bottomless well of culinary experience! Multiple meals at the Herbfarm, where haven't you been? ;) And you know, I'm sure you could make a killer pavlova if you put your mind to it.

Hi Nicky - Unfortunately these were not really edible flowers! They're called Sweet William, which are a member of the carnation family and therefore in theory edible, but these were not organic so I picked them off the pavlova before eating it. Last summer in the US I made my own wedding cake and wanted to decorate it with fresh edible flowers, and after weeks of searching I finally found an upscale supermarket that sold (expensive) little packages of edible flowers for salads. All the flower sellers I contacted said they had no source for organic flowers, and even flowers I found at the farmer's markets weren't organic. The only solution seems to be growing your own, or making friends with people who have a big organic garden...

Hi Reid - Pavlovas are pretty new for me too. They are a bit dangerous to have around, as it's very easy to just inhale them without realizing - luckily you'll get your fruit quotient for the day in the process!
June 28, 2005 | Registered Commentermelissa
Such a pretty summery desssert, I can imagine you didn't take long to finish them...
June 28, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterkeiko
I made a pavlova this weekend - it is THE quintessential summertime dessert in my family's opinion. I must try pistachios next time (I've had success with toasted sugared almonds already).
June 28, 2005 | Unregistered Commentertara
Hi Keiko - Yes it was, but it was also so large we just finished it today! Even though it was nowhere near as good as it was fresh from the oven, it was still too good to throw away :)

Hi Tara - Yum, almonds sound fantastic too. I've had plain pavlovas before, but I thought adding the nuts to the meringue just lifted it to a whole new level - don't you agree? I don't know if I'll be able to go back to plain ones now...
June 29, 2005 | Registered Commentermelissa
Bee-u-tee-ful! wow, i love the edible flowers, they are so cute. Are they easy to find? and do they actually taste good? I've only seen them once in my life in a gourmet food shop but they looked quite large and I remember thinking that perhaps they would just taste like a plant. A very impressive dessert Melissa! are there leftovers? :)
June 29, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMichele
Hi Michele - Gosh, now you ask! There were (admittedly soggy) leftovers up until yesterday, but when I came home after work they were mysteriously gone. And unless a mouse got into our fridge, there's only one other possibly guilty party - one who claims to not have a sweet tooth... Btw, if you ever see edible flowers again, do buy them as they're quite hard to find, and many have very interesting flavors ranging from spicy to downright floral. They're fantastic (and beautiful) in salads.
June 29, 2005 | Registered Commentermelissa
Okay, now I'm kicking myself because I didn't buy a little tin of culinary lavendar buds that I saw in a museum shop in Santa Fe while I was there last week. Must find them, must find them. And obviously I must go to Herbfarm, since the BF and I have plans to be in the Seattle area later this summer.

This flavor combination seems perfect to me -- there's an almost Middle Eastern feel to it, with the perfumy lavendar and rich pistachios. Your glorious photos with the amazing seasonal fruit and flowers has me in a state of virtually-induced but very real craving. I've made almond pavlovas, and one of my all-time favorites is Nigella's Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova, which actually survives for a day or two if it's properly dried out.

But this I must make. And it just so happens that I've got a stash of egg-whites in the freezer...
June 29, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterJulie
Hi Julie - Nice to have you back! I wouldn't fret too much over the lavender - there must be a place you can buy it in NYC (can't you find everything there?). If you can't, you can always order it online: the Spice House (http://www.thespicehouse.com ) has been recommended to me and they seem to have reasonable prices. When I bought mine I thought I would be hard-pressed to find more than one or two things I wanted to make with it - now I have a list stretching the better part of a page, the stuff is just pure magic! Btw, thanks for the tip on Nigella's pavlova - I just googled it and have downloaded the recipe. The mere mention of chocolate and raspberries makes my salivary glands start going haywire...
June 30, 2005 | Registered Commentermelissa
I would have to say that is one of the nicest looking pavs I have seen :) I am abit unaustralian in that I like mine abit chewy in the centre rather than just fluffy eggwhite.
July 1, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterclare eats
Hi Clare - I'll definitely have to try them both ways, as I am so new to pavlovas I don't know how I prefer them! :)
July 2, 2005 | Registered Commentermelissa
I love the Herbfarm cookbook - I've read it twice and only cooked from it once or twice. Thanks for the pavlova reference. Meringues scare me - perhaps due to a frightful Baked Alaska experience? A winner recipe from the Herbfarm cookbook is the roasted vegetable ratatouille. It calls for handfuls of fresh herbs which I fortunately have in my garden - despite my black thumb-like efforts. It is savory, lip-smacking and popular with non-vegetarians, too.
July 7, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterAmyBee
Hi AmyBee - Thanks for the tip - I do love ratatouille! Funnily enough I've run across a lot of people who are scared of meringues - I guess it just takes one disaster to permanently scar you. That happened to me with caramel, as the first time I ever tried to make it I burned it (and myself!) badly. But meringues are so easy - do give them another shot when you're feeling brave!
July 8, 2005 | Registered Commentermelissa
Hi, Melissa! I know I've come late to the party, but I just can't let such a beautiful pavlova go uncommented upon. The next time I come to Edinburgh -- and there *will* be a next time -- I am so showing up at your door. :)

(Well, okay, I'll probably take you to lunch at Valvona & Crolla first.)
July 14, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterBakerina
Hi Bakerina - I'll be waiting outside Valvona and Crolla for you! :)
July 18, 2005 | Registered Commentermelissa

This pavlova is just beautiful!

March 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMariannaF

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