Even though I’m naturally not too heavy on desserts, but when I crave one, this dessert is always on the list. It’s just simple, light and perfect to serve in summer.
I made this one on Australia Day. I just couldn’t think of anything more Australian than a pavlova to make. Usually I would add passion fruit or berries on top (sometimes both). But this time I decided to give it a bit of a middle eastern twist to satisfy my Egyptian part (which is always overtaking my Australian part when it comes to food!), and so I made my topping using delicious ripe and velvety skinned apricots from the markets, I flavoured them with some of Egypt’s most versatile spices, which I simply cannot imagine my life without: cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla.
Apricots are such a popular fruit in middle eastern and Mediterranean cuisines, commonly used in the dried form either in savoury or sweet dishes. for example, Moroccans add them to their savoury tagines to give a unique sweet flavour. A very popular Egyptian drink that I personally crave every now and then, is called ‘ammar el deen’, it’s basically dried sheets of apricots and sugar dissolved in water. You are simply not an Egyptian if you haven’t had this drink before!
I know some of you would think that making a meringue is such a hassle, and I used to think the same too, but not before I made it a few times was I convinced that it is actually not at all, as long as you are not hand whisking the egg whites, that’s for sure..
There are a few things you need to keep in mind though when making a meringue (pavlova base), and if you are aware of these things I can’t see your meringue failing not even once unless you intend to prove me wrong! so here are a few tips I’ve learnt and I won’t keep a secret from you:
- your bowl must be super clean and dry before you start whisking the eggs
- make sure you separate the egg whites while eggs are cold (much easier), then leave egg whites aside to reach room temperature before whisking (usually 30 mins are enough)
- you can’t have any traces of egg yolks in your egg whites
- use very fine raw caster sugar, it’s easier to dissolve in egg whites
- preheat oven at least 10 mins before baking
- put meringue in the middle rack, not low and not high.
- don’t open the oven door while meringue is cooking
- you must let meringue cool completely, wait at least 3 hours before removing meringue from oven. I sometimes bake it at night then leave it over night to cool down and crisp.
- 6 egg whites (at room temperature)
- 320 g raw (unrefined) superfine caster sugar
- 1 teaspoon of white vinegar
- 8 ripe apricots
- 1/4 cup of raw organic honey
- 2/3 cup of water
- 3 cardamom pods (slightly opened)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 vanilla bean split in half lengthways
- pinch of ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 250 g soft mascarpone cheese
- 1/4 cup of full cream milk
- 1 tablespoon raw honey
- separate egg whites (while eggs are cold) and leave aside until they reach room temperature.(20-30 mins), meanwhile preheat oven to 130 degrees Celsius
- line a round baking tray with baking paper
- using an electric mixer, whisk egg whites on high speed until soft peaks start to form.
- gradually add the sugar (one tablespoon at a time) whisking constantly until thick, glossy and sugar dissolves.
- add vinegar and whisk for a few more seconds, then stop whisking.
- spoon meringue onto lined tray forming a round base(about 20 cm in diameter)
- pile up meringue to create a dome about 5 cm in height.
- using a spatula or a palette knife create some swirls and peaks on the sides, flattening the top slightly but not perfectly.
- bake for 30 mins, then reduce the oven heat to 120 degrees Celsius for another 45-50 mins.
- do not open the oven door while meringue is baking
- turn off oven and leave meringue to cool down completely (3-4 hours)
- you can bake it at night and leave to cool in the oven over night.
- add water and spices(except ground cinnamon) to a small saucepan.
- bring the mixture to boil, then simmer on low heat for 4 mins.
- add honey and keep simmering for a further 6-8 mins or until mixture turns into a runny syrup.
- turn heat off and leave to cool down for 15 mins.
- discard vanilla bean, cinnamon stick and cardamom pods from syrup
- add ground cinnamon and 2 tablespoons of syrup to the sliced apricots in a bowl and stir gently to coat. Reserve the rest of syrup for serving.
- add milk, honey and mascarpone cheese to a clean bowl and whisk for 2 mins until thick and creamy.
- spread cheese mixture over cooled meringue.
- top with spiced apricot slices.
- drizzle with extra reserved syrup and serve immediately.
- you can prepare apricot topping a day before and keep in the fridge.