Strawberry Mascarpone Pavlova

Did you ever have History Day in school as a kid? Where you have to dress up as a famous historical figure and recite their biographyand your mom and teacher pray you don't pick someone like Pinochet or Hitler?

Well, when I was a kid I was pretty obsessed with ballet. I started classes around age three and continued dancing pretty seriously through middle school. Then I became incredibly self-conscious about my bodyballerinas typically don't grow boobsand decided to take a break. I took some classes in college and have always found a class or two to take in each city I've lived in because I think once you've learned to move your body a certain way to certain music, it's in you forever.

So, for History Day at Round Meadow Elementary (go Colts!) I dressed up as Anna Pavlovathe light-as-air ballerina, for whom this light-as-air dessert was named.

A pavlova is made of layers of baked meringuecrispy on the outside and slightly chewy and marshmallowy on the insidelayered with some sort of whipped cream and fruit. Each layer adds a different texture and level of sweetness that you can play around withit's so versatile! 

Even though it isn't technically summer yet, the college students have left town, the farmers market has started, and the first decent strawberries have arrived. You know, not the ones that taste like a whole lotta dirt and vaguely of berry? These are the real deal.

The scent of strawberries cooking on the stove is one of the quintessential smells of summer to memuch better than deet, which I also associate with the season. It reminds of when I would drag my husband to the U-Pick berry farm, convince him that we actually needed all 30 pounds of strawberries, and then spend hours making jar after jar of jam in my tiny hot, sweaty Kentucky kitchen.

This recipe also uses whipped mascarpone cheese, in addition to whipping cream. It creates such a rich and creamy mouth-feelin contrast to the crispy meringueand the flavor really can't be beat.

So, without further ado, fuete on down to the recipe.

TO MAKE THIS RECIPE YOU WILL NEED:

For the meringue:
5 egg whites, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar

For the strawberries:
2 cups of strawberries, hulled and sliced
1-2 tablespoons honey, depending on how sweet the berries are

For the whipped mascarpone:
4 ounces mascarpone cheese
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 cup cold whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

Make the meringue. Preheat your oven to 400. Line a rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle sugar in an even layer on top. Place sheet in hot oven and warm sugar for 5 minutesset a timer! Warming the sugar helps it dissolve more easily into the egg whites. While your sugar is warming, add your egg whites to the bowl of a stand mixer, making sure that no yolk makes it in. Begin with the mixer on low and let the yolks get frothy. Increase the speed slowly to high and continue beating until stiff peaks form-about 5-6 minutes.

Give 'em some suga. Remove the sugar from the oven and carefully add it to the egg whites 1-tablespoonful at a time, with the mixer on high. Keep adding the sugar until it's all been incorporated and stiff, glossy peaks have formedabout 5-7 minutes. 

Bring down the heat. Reduce the oven temp to 200. Line the cookie sheet with some more parchment. If the parchment you used for the sugar is in good condition you can reuse it. Divide the meringue into two even piles on the parchment and use a spatula to shape them into 8-inch circles. Bake for about 90 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. 

Meanwhile... cook your strawberries on the stove in a small sauce pan with the honey over medium heat until the berries begin to break down a bit and the liquid begins to thicken. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Whip it good. In the bowl of a mixer, combine mascarpone and sugar and whip until well combined, about a minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add in the whipping cream and vanilla, begin with the mixer on low, and slowly increase the speed to high. Whip until the mixture has thickened to consistency of whipped cream.

Time to assemble. Begin with a meringue disk, then spoon some of the whipped mascarpone mixture on top, spreading it to the edges. Spoon some of the strawberries on top and repeat the layers one more time. 

 


 

Biscuits (and Buzz Cuts)

I'm betting if you're here it's because you care about food on some level. You may not consider yourself a foodie—whatever that means—but on some level you have a connection with what you're consuming. You want to know where your ingredients come from, you have strong memories of the recipes you used to eat as a kid, or of your family eating together at the holidays—OR—my mom convinced you to read this thing—which is fine too; I could use the readers. Thanks, Ma. 

When I moved to Colorado in 2006 I was never more unsure of myself. I had been accepted to grad school and decided to take that route because school was the only thing I had ever been good at. I had no clue what I wanted to be when I grew up—and quite honestly, I still have no idea—so it seemed like the natural next step. I remember moving day; standing in a parking lot—my dad squeezing me tight, both of us crying (he's more of a Jewish mother than my own)—and him whispering in my ear, "You can do this." Uh, I wasn't so sure. 

I moved to a tiny town—a blip on a map. I hated it. I lived with my friend and her toddler—who's going to be 14 later this year—yikes. I was lonely, had starting dating a schmuck, and was in an art program where I felt like I didn't fit in. 

And then two things happened that would change my life forever: I met the man with a buzz cut who would later become my husband (and who was actually my employee at the time—ay-oh!); and I bought a cookbook, called With a Measure of Grace, at the local bookstore.

This cookbook, from Hell's Backbone Grill, a restaurant run by two women in Boulder, UT—a blip on a map—is one of the most thoughtfully written books I've ever read. It made me think about cooking, and ingredients, and farms, and people, and the ways we gather together around food unlike ever before.

Sometimes it can feel silly to wax poetic about breakfast—but it's the meals we share with friends, the cookies we bake with our grandmothers, the local restaurants we grow to love—that shape our memories. 

I read the book cover to cover, engrossing myself in the stories of the Buddhist monks who visit the restaurant, the staff who've become family, and the farmers dedicated to growing and raising food. And then I got to cooking—and by this time I had brand new boy to cook and bake for.

This biscuit recipe is from their cookbook and it's one of my favorites. I've made some slight changes to theirs, but the gist is still the same buttery, flaky deliciousness you'd want in a biscuit.

Now get off your own biscuit and go make these.

TO MAKE THIS RECIPE YOU WILL NEED:

2 tablespoons cornmeal
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
8 tablespoons butter, really cols and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup of cold buttermilk

Cold meets hot. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. You want to keep your other ingredients really cold. It's the best way to get nice, flaky biscuits. Let your oven get really hot, at least 15 minutes. Meanwhile line a 9 x 11-inch baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the cornmeal.

Prepare your dries. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the flour, salt, soda, powder, and sugar until well combined.

Add the buttah. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or two knives until the mixer resembles coarse crumbs.

Now the buttahmilk. Pour the buttermilk over the top of the mixture and using a rubber spatula, fold in the milk, rotating the bowl with each fold. The mixture should be moist and sticky with very few dry patches.

Turn out for what. Turn the dough out on to a floured counter and lightly flour your hands. Lightly press the dough into a rectangle about an inch thick. Then fold it in on itself in thirds, like a letter. Add a little flour to the stack and light roll or press the stack back down to an inch-thick rectangle. Turn the rectangle and repeat the folding process two more times, being gentle with the stack. End with a 1-inch high rectangle of dough. 

Slice 'n bake. Place the rectangle of biscuit dough on the prepared pan with the cornmeal. Using a knife, and hopefully better measuring skills than I have, cut biscuits into two-inch squares and leave attached to each other on the pan. Sprinkle with the other tablespoon of cornmeal.  Bake for about 15 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool for more than the 10 seconds I wait, to avoid scalding your fingers and tongue, then top with your favorite jam.