So… we had kind of a fancy weekend. I’m going to tell you all about these raspberry chocolate pavlovas, of course, but first, I have to tell you about our Saturday night.
That night, our dear friend Jeremy invited us to join him and his friend at the White House for their annual holiday tour. I’m trying to type this and not SQUEAL AT THE TOP OF MY LUNGS at the same time. You know those people who meet celebrities and are just totally cool about it? I am so not one of those people. One time, I screamed home designer Vern Yip’s name right back at him in a parking lot of a restaurant in Atlanta. Vern Yip was on that TLC show “Trading Spaces” at the time, that show where neighbors swapped homes with each other for 48 hours and had a budget of $1,000 to make over a room in each other’s homes and tried not to freak out when the finished product was like, a lime green and teal living room. My sisters and I watched that show obsessively, and one night one of my sisters and I saw him as we were driving away from a restaurant. I slammed on the brakes, rolled down the window, and screamed his name at the top of my lungs. Over and over. He clutched his pocket. I think he might have thought we were trying to mug him. To this day, I’m really not sure what we were trying to do.
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Fast forward to about five years ago, when I stood in line for nearly two hours to meet Hillary Clinton. I had Ge Ge with me, who was only five weeks old at the time. During that two hours a lot of thoughts went through my head, from how I’d manage to feed Ge Ge if he got hungry and how long I’d really be able to stand with a 13-pound baby strapped to my chest. I thought I’d be this cool young mother, my baby serene while I swayed calmly side to side. Instead, as soon as Hillary walked into the room, I lost it. She only had time to take one photo with all of the kids at the meet and greet. They let the hubby grab the baby, and I was so worried that I’d missed my only shot in life at having my photo taken with a Clinton. Then Huma Abedin, her trusty right-hand assistant, must have seen my crumpled face, because she gestured towards me. “Mom can join, too!” she said as she came toward me.
I darted to the front of the room without a second thought and snapped the above photo. Cheeks and Clinton. Just in case you don’t have a sense of how exactly I managed to snap this photo, this is how uncool it looked from the rest of the world’s perspective at the time that it happened:
See what I mean? I’m totally a mess when it comes to meeting famous people. So you can imagine what I must have been like this past Saturday. Oh, the squealing. Oh, the giggling and the gasping and the clapping.
I didn’t get to meet the President or the First Lady when I was at the White House. It said so clearly on the reservation confirmation that we received weeks ago. We also were told to dress warmly, to eat a snack and to stay hydrated. Touring the holiday decorations at the White House, I’ve learned, is serious business. We had to wait in line, then get ushered through in waves through security before we actually even made it inside. The tour, which is only open to White House staff members and their guests, isn’t guided or timed, but you definitely feel a need to keep moving. It’s glittery and sparkly and everything you’d imagine a White House to look like at Christmas.
Since Saturday, I’ve been thinking a lot about the holidays and how we make them special. This year, we’re not traveling until after Christmas day, and both the hubby and I have added a few little things year after year. There’s always a baking component. I bake cookies with the kids and we set a few out for Santa. I usually try to make something I’ve never made before, like I did with these mini chocolate raspberry pavlovas a few weeks ago. Have you ever had a pavlova? I’d never even heard of them before I lived in Malaysia. It’s basically a cooked meringue with layers of whipped cream and fruit. The first time I had one was at an English friend’s house. She’d made a gorgeous white pavlova as big as my head, and between layers of crunchy meringue, she’d heaped freshly-cut mangoes. It was a glorious, show-stopping dessert.
For me, I didn’t trust myself to be very successful with pavlova on my first go-round, but I found this Nigella Lawson version that I loved right away because she uses the word “squidginess” to describe how you can tell the pavlova is done. Ahh, the British and their adorably descriptive adjectives. For us Americans, I took that to mean that there had to be a certain amount of give to the pavlova, so that if you sunk your fork into it, there’d be a crackly top that gave way to some oozy, gooey goodness inside.
And that’s exactly what happened with these mini chocolate raspberry pavlovas I made. They’re “mini” in that each one is only about 4-5 inches in diameter, and the pavlovas I’ve typically seen are grander affairs, covering an entire serving platter. I found the smaller size perfect for sharing with one other person (hi, honey! smooches!) and let me store the pavlovas disassembled in a Tupperware until ready for eating.
Plus, there’s something so fancy about serving a pavlova. It’s a different kind of dessert for the holidays, and one that people don’t see very often. What do you think? Will you try it for the holidays?
I mean, the whipped cream and raspberries alone are reason enough. And if it isn’t, it’s okay. You can squeal along with me to this:
- For the pavlova:
- 6 large egg whites
- 2 cups superfine sugar
- 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
- 1 teaspoon balsamic or red wine vinegar
- 2 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped
- For the toppings:
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 4 cups raspberries
- 1 to 2 ounces dark chocolate
- fresh mint leaves (optional)
- Position the racks in your oven in the upper third and lower third of your oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and, using a pencil and a glass with about a 4-inch diameter, trace circles spaced about 2-2.5 inches apart. Turn the parchment paper over so that your meringue won't be contaminated by the pencil parks.
- Make the meringue: In a large mixing bowl with high sides, beat the egg whites with a mixer until satiny peaks form, and then beat in the sugar a spoonful at a time until the meringue is stiff and shiny. Sprinkle the cocoa, vinegar and then the chopped chocolate over the egg whites. Gently fold everything with a rubber spatula until the cocoa is thoroughly mixed in.
- Spoon just a little dab of the meringue under each corner of the parchment paper to make sure that the parchment paper is firmly attached to the baking sheet. Using your rubber spatula, spread out the meringue into each of the circles you've drawn, making sure to smooth down the sides and top of each meringue circle.
- Put your baking sheets in the oven, then immediately turn the temperature down to 300 degrees and cook for 1 to 1¼ hours. The pavlovas are ready when the tops are dry and crisp looking but gives easily when touched gently with your rubber spatula..
- Let it cool: Turn off the oven and open the door slightly; let the meringue cool completely in the oven. When you're ready to serve, turn out the meringues onto a large platter and carefully peel off the parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, beat the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Using a clean rubber spatula, spread a thick layer of whipped cream onto one pavlova circle, then smush another pavlova circle on top. Top with raspberries and grate chocolate on top for garnish. Add mint leaves for extra zing.
- Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/nigella-lawson/chocolate-raspberry-pavlova-recipe.html?oc=linkback