Saturday, April 20, 2013

Strawberry-Colada Pavlovas

The Setting: A quiet and peaceful evening at the Crumm house--the little one has been sleeping for almost two hours!

The Soundtrack: Duck Dynasty. Gotta love it.

On the Stovetop: Nothing now, but Hoosband made some killer chicken quesadillas for dinner.

The Scenario: A dessert inspired by a drink....

Last summer Hoosband and I had a revelation in frozen-drink making: the Strawberry Colada.

Though I've never seen it on a drink menu, I'm quite sure we're not the first to think of it.

While I have no idea what may have qualified as a Strawberry Colada to the barkeeps who blended before us, ours is a simple and relatively healthy concoction of frozen strawberries, coconut milk (the kind that comes in a milk carton) and coconut rum. Three ingredients to pure, island-fantasizing, hammock-by-the-ocean bliss.

Last week, back on the mainland, I had a couple of egg whites hanging around after a pudding-making endeavor, so I froze them to save for another one of Hoosband's favorite indulgences: meringue and berry pavlovas.

I generally keep the pavlovas pretty simple: whipped cream and fresh raspberries in a crunchy-on-the-outside, marshmallowy-on-the-inside meringue shell (as in Raspberry Pavlovas, Jan 2012).

This time I wanted to mix things up a bit.

Since the market had gorgeous, organic strawberries on sale (and because I've been dreaming of the beach), I decided to take some inspiration from our favorite frozen beverage.

The result?

Meringue shells speckled with toasted coconut, loaded with whipped coconut cream and topped with coconut-rum-spiked strawberries.

It's not quite like being on the beach--more like blissfully looking down on the islands from a white, puffy cloud.

It's easy to put your own spin on this dreamy dessert. Here are a few simple variations:

To make it a bit more beachy, add the zest of one lime to the strawberry mixture--I did this before eating my third pavlova, and I think I like it even better this way.

For more of a literal interpretation of the strawberry colada, puree the marinated strawberry mixture into a smooth sauce in the blender.

If you're a "love the taste, not the texture"-fan of coconut, as I used to be, feel free to omit the grated coconut in the meringues.

If you're not a fan of coconut rum or don't have any on hand, try Grand Marnier (orange-flavored brandy liqueur) instead--it's usually my go-to with sliced strawberries, and it's never served me wrong--or omit the booze altogether, no substitutions necessary.

Strawberry-Colada Pavlovas

~for the strawberries~
1 quart fresh strawberries, rinsed and patted dry
2 T granulated sugar
2 T coconut rum (such as Malibu)

Use a paring knife to hull the berries (remove the leafy, green stem-area) and slice them thinly.

It doesn't really matter which way you slice them, but I prefer to do it along their length.

Place the strawberries in a refrigerator-safe container that can be sealed and add the sugar and rum, stirring to coat evenly.

Store the strawberry mixture in the fridge until for at least 8 hours or until ready to use (up to three days). The berries will become softer and syrupy.

~for the meringue shells~
1/4 cup unsweetened, grated coconut
2 egg whites, room temperature (if you start with frozen egg whites, thaw them overnight in the fridge)
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp coconut rum, optional
3/4 cup granulated sugar

Place the coconut in a dry skillet over medium heat and toast, stirring frequently, until light golden.

Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit (if your oven tends to run hot, decrease the temp slightly). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat--if desired, you can trace six three-inch circles on parchment paper and flip it over so that you have guides for piping your shells. I prefer to go freehand.

Place the eggs whites, cream of tartar, vanilla, and rum in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium speed until the whites are foamy and can hold a soft peak when you lift up the paddle.

With the mixer on med-low speed, slowly add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, beating just until the mixture is bright white, glossy, and can hold a stiff peak when you lift up the paddle.

Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the toasted coconut.

Transfer the mixture to a piping bag (working in batches if necessary) and pipe six, three-inch meringue shells onto the prepared pan: Put the tip of your piping bag down where you want the center of the circle to be, and pipe out a tight coil of meringue until it is the desired width. Then lift the tip to make a ring around the edge of the coil, creating a well. Repeat to create six shells.

Bake the meringues at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for 23 minutes or until cream-colored and crisp on the outside. The insides will have a very slight jiggle. Allow to cool five minutes on the baking sheet; then carefully slide the parchment or silicone mat onto a cooling rack and allow the shells to cool completely.

~for the whipped coconut cream~
1 can full-fat coconut milk, room temperature
2 T powdered sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp coconut rum

Open the can of coconut milk and use a fork to scoop the fatty top layer of cream into a powerful blender, making sure to keep the thinner, watery liquid in the can (the fork helps any liquid to drain off).

Don't worry if there are a few clumps of cream left in the can.

If desired, transfer the watery liquid to an airtight container and keep in the fridge for smoothie-making or another upcoming purpose. Clumps of cream left in the the can will actually make smoothies even better!

Add the remaining ingredients to the blender and blend on high for about 30 seconds or until the mixture looks like slightly frothy milk. Transfer to a small container and chill for about an hour. It will have thickened slightly. Transfer the cream to a large, metal bowl, and use a wire whisk to whip the mixture by hand until it is able to hold soft peaks.

For a more detailed explanation of this process, see this post.

If not assembling the pavlovas right away, store the coconut cream in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to use (up to 4 days). It will thicken slightly in the fridge but will still be easy to work with.

~to assemble~
Place a meringue shell on a dessert plate and spoon the coconut cream into the center "well" of the shell.

Top with the prepared strawberries and enjoy!

Thanks for reading! Here's to Being the Secret Ingredient in your life.

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