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Easter Horror Stories OR Pavlova with Pomegranate Marscapone Cream and Pistachio Praline

We always go to my sister's house for Easter and I usually cook a large part of the meal. I am so busy cooking a big turkey dinner with a ham and a million sides, I don't pay much attention to dessert. This year, after a difficult month, we are staying home and having dinner with The Neighbours and she is a bigger control freak than I am. She is letting me make brussels sprouts and dessert so for the first time in a long time, I can really turn my attention to something sweet.

Pavlova is a favourite with The Kid and I  because, well, all manner of meringue is a favourite and pavlova is nothing if not a giant meringue covered in whipped cream, another big favourite in our house. I saw the idea to step away from the classic circle for the meringue base and make a nice egg shape for this Easter dessert on Martha Stewart. How cute is that?

Because it's a special holiday meal we also ditched the straight up whipped cream for a marscapone cream flavoured with some pomegranate syrup. Just to make things CRAZY, I wanted to topped the whole thing off with a nice pistachio praline just because I could. As soon as I settled on pom molasses for the marscapone, it just made sense to use pistachios for the praline because, to me, they just go together so nicely.

I took the idea and recipe for the pavlova from Martha Stewart and the base for my marscapone cream from The Kitchen of Oz . This was my first time using marscapone and it will certainly not be my last. If I was really feeling like making a huge mess in my tiny kitchen, I might have spun some sugar nests to sit on top of this puppy so if anyone else has a really big kitchen that they can mess up, please do that and get back to me.

You will need the meringue, marscapone cream, crumbled praline, blueberries and pomegranate seeds

Now, here is where I am totally keeping it real for you. I failed four consecutive attempts at making the praline. The first time, I put the juice of one large orange instead of half on average sized orange and it never set up. It looked stunning but it just never hardened and to be honest, the orange flavour was kind of overpowering. I woke up early Easter morning to make a fresh batch and it turned into a pot of rock hard grainy sugar. What the hell?

I tried again and it happened again. By now, I am getting really kind of freaked out because I felt totally committed to the praline and I really think that all of these soft, mushy textures were screaming for a bit of crunch in each bite and I was not going to be able to provide that crunch if this wasn't going to start working out. Shack tried to calm me down, told me to take a nice shower and then go for a walk but I was having none of that. I made the meringue and that went off without a hitch, thankfully because I don't think my fragile psyche could have handled a meringue emergency. I then tried a fourth time with a different pot and a bowl of water and a pastry brush on hand and, for the fourth time, my sugar didn't melt. This was not happening.

I made the marscapone cream and that went well and after a peak in the oven, I could see that my meringue was baking beautifully and I was filled with renewed hope. I cleaned out the second pot because I had a better feeling about that pot - it had only failed me once- and put in the sugar and a tbls of water since I was now out of orange juice. I turned the heat to lower than medium low and I patiently waited. It took FOREVER but slowly my sugar started to melt into a beautiful, bubbling syrup and I let it bubble away for a good 20 minutes like that while I stared at it like it was going to get up and sneak out of my kitchen if I dared turn my back on it for a second. Don't let them tell you that watch pots never boil because they do, they just take forever.

I tried three different methods too so it isn't THIS recipe that is wrong, it's me, or my pots or my house, or my chi or my hair or the way I chop my onions. I don't know. In the end, the fifth time was the charm and I was gifted with perfect, amber nutty praline although by that time, I used water instead of orange juice and toasted almonds and pumpkin seeds because I ran out of pistachios but I would encourage you to stick to pistachios so I am keeping them in the recipe.

Pavlova with Pomegranate Marscapone and Pistachio Praline

6 large egg whites, room temp
pinch cream of tartar
1 1/2 cups super fine sugar (I whiz granulated sugar in my bullet first and then measure)
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp white wine vinegar (i used white balsamic)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 250F
draw an egg shape on a piece of parchment. I used a standard 8.5"x11" piece of printer paper and used the whole thing and traced that to the parchment.Turn the parchment over so the side with the marking is on the underside.
Before I do any kind of meringue, I wipe my bowl and my beater with white vinegar and then rinse and dry well just to make sure there is no grease on anything because I have had whites not whip to stiff peaks and I will be forever paranoid. You do what you have to do.
Beat the whites with cream of tartar still soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the sugar, 1 tbls at at time on medium high speed. When the sugar is all added in , throw in the cornstarch and salt and beat until stiff peaks form. Turn off the mixer and fold in the vanilla and vinegar.

Using your egg shaped drawing as your guide, mound the meringue onto the parchment and start spreading it out , trying to maintain the egg shape you drew on the underside of the parchment. Bake it for 1 1/2 hrs, turn off the heat at that point and leave it to sit in the oven for another 2 hours, until it's completely cooled to room temperature.

2/3 cup sugar
juice of 1/2 orange or 1 tbls
good tbls of corn syrup
1 cup toasted pistachio and pumpkin seed mix
1/4 tsp ground cardamom

10 - 15 grinds of orange zest on a rasp

melt the sugar , corn syrup and the orange juice in a heavy saucepan over  low to barely med low heat. Let it come to a boil and let it boil away until it turns a nice, golden brown. DO NOT STIR THIS STUFF AT ALL AT ANY TIME. Trust me, just let it slowly come to a nice bubble and let it bubble away until it starts to turn a nice amber. It took mine about 20 minutes and I watched it like a hawk.
When it's nice and golden brown, throw in the nuts, the zest and the cardamom. Take it off the heat, quickly stir and pour it out onto your parchment lined baking sheet. Set aside to get hard.
Right before you are going to serve the dessert, throw the nut praline into a food processor or blender and give it a quick whiz to break it all up. I keep reading that you should bust it up at the last minute so it won't get all sticky.

Marscapone Cream

400g marscapone
200 ml of whipping cream, well chilled
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
pomegranate molasses

Whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Add the vanilla and icing sugar and stir on low for not more than a minute to make sure it's combined. Add the marscapone and pomegranate molasses and mix on low speed for another minute or two, until it's just fully incorporated and smooth. Over mixing will give you a weird, grainy texture so don't make that mistake.

To Assemble:

Place the meringue on your serving dish.  

Lightly smash the top of the meringue with the back of a big spoon and then spoon the marscapone cream all over the top of the meringue.

Scatter your blueberries 

and your pomegranate seeds (I used all the seeds from one pomegranate) over the cream

then sprinkle the whole thing with your crushed up praline

At the end of this adventure, I was left with a really perfect pavlova. The outside was crisp, the inside was so soft and creamy and marshmallowy - even meringue ambivalent  Shack, who took a tiny piece to humour me and be polite, came back for a second, ample slice and admitted that it was absolutely delicious and not what he was expecting at all. We all loved the marscapone cream which added a sort of cheesecakey dimension and a richness that isn't there when we use only whipped cream. It isn't for everyday but it was perfect for a holiday celebration.

The crunch of the praline was perfect and I don't regret spending my entire morning in a state of high anxiety until I got the praline that I was obsessed about because it sent the dessert over the top.
Shack is already asking me to make another one with just whipped cream and juicy, sluicy strawberries so I know this one is now a new staple.

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