On the Ninth Day of Christmas... Christmas Pavlova Wreath
On the Ninth Day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Nine ladies dancing (Anna Pavlova Christmas Wreath)
Pavlova is a simple but beautiful meringue dessert created by the iconic ballerina Anna Pavlova. Unsweetened whipped cream and the tang of a fruity topping perfectly counterbalance the intensely sweet, crispy-on-the-outside-soft-on-the-inside meringue.
For this recipe, make sure to leave ample time (a couple hours) to allow the pavlova to cool very slowly inside the hot oven. If you plan on sugared sage or mint leaves and berries for the wreath, it can take several hours or overnight for them to dry. Do this first before you start baking. The cranberry sauce can be made a day or two in advance and stored in the fridge.
You can make Pavlova any season of the year by changing out the fruit—this recipe uses cranberries and pomegranates for the holiday. And since the merengue-base is spread out on a sheet pan, you can shape it any way you like it really—a big disc, several small discs, a wreath (like this one), a rectangle...
CHRISTMAS PAVLOVA WREATH
4 egg whites (save the yolks for the custard)
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon lemon juice plus zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla paste
2 cups fresh cranberries
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup pomegranate syrup (optional but highly recommended!)
Zest and juice of 1 orange
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon each ground cloves and ginger
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 pint heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
touch of sugar
Fresh sugared cranberries
Dried sugared cranberries
Sugared sage or mint leaves
Walnut or pecan halves
Heat the oven to 250f. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit a large sheet pan. Draw a circle on the parchment using a dinner plate as a template. This will be the outer ring of your wreath. Inside the ring use a small saucer to draw an inner circle. You will use these circles as a guideline for where to dollop the meringue. Turn the parchment over onto the sheet pan and set aside.
Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Very slowly—2 or so tablespoons at a time—add the sugar while beating until all the sugar is incorporated. Add the cornstarch, lemon zest & juice, and vanilla. Beat until stiff peaks form.
Using a spatula or a large spoon, dollop the meringue around the inside of your two lines, creating small to medium-sized rounds or ovals around the ring. (I always start with one dollop at the top and one dollop at the bottom, then fill in between them on each side.) Once you have them in place, make little divots in the center of each dollop. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the outside is crisp and ever-so-slightly caramel in color. **Turn off the oven and leave the meringue inside to cool slowly. This could take a couple hours.
While waiting, make the cranberry-pom sauce: Heat all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Simmer and stir occasionally for 12-15 minutes until the berries are soft and have "popped". Transfer the mixture to a food processor and blend until pureed. You can add more maple or pomegranate syrup to bring up the flavors; it should be tangy-sweet. Set aside and bring to room temperature.
When the Pavlova is room temperature, and 20 or so minutes before you want to serve, whip the heavy cream with the vanilla and a little sugar until stiff peaks form. Carefully slide the Pavlova onto a platter or cake plate.
Have all your decorations ready!
Next dollop and spread the whipped cream over the meringue in sweeping, snow-drift-like motions. Dollop the cranberry custard on top of the cream and decorate with your leaves and berries. Serve immediately.