When Quench Magazine invited me to create a dessert that reflects who I am, my background and influences, my mind zoomed into these flavours and textures of my past and present, in a heartbeat.
Having drawn from my mixed cultural background, heritage, and culinary influences, I created a dessert that interweaves threads of Malaysia, New Zealand (Aotearoa, in Māori, which most commonly translates to “long white cloud”) and Canada. I had my first pavlova in Auckland, at a neighbourhood bakery that I worked at before leaving for Canada to attend pastry school. Although one can argue about whether Australia or New Zealand holds true claim to this billowy cloud-like dessert (whole other debate here!), it takes me back to City Cake Company, where I would help dress it up with fresh passionfruit, when it was in season. Bringing in nostalgic flavours from Malaysia, I made a tart and refreshing calamansi curd to contrast the sweet meringue and creamy dollops of soft coconut milk jelly. These flavours were sprinkled throughout my childhood, as we used to line up at the hawker stalls out in the sun for thirst-quenching sweetened calamansi juice over ice, or a cool coconut milk-based drink called ‘cendol'. Finally, I topped off this dessert with local BC berries that ties in my love for our summers here in BC, where local berries are in abundance and at its peak, bursting with sweet, tart juicy goodness!
Calamansi Coconut Pavlova
Yield: 1 x 9" pavlova
Serving: 8 to 10
Prep Time: 45 mins
Baking Time: 1 hour 15 min (cooling time 4 hours, preferably overnight)
Prepare Ahead: Yes
Stand Mixer, whisk attachment
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper, with a 9" circle traced on the back.
Coconut Jelly Ingredients:
¾ cup coconut milk
¼ cup water, cold
1½ teaspoons gelatine powder (if you would like a stiffer jelly, increase to 2 teaspoons)
3 tablespoons sugar
Line a 9x4 loaf tin with plastic wrap that extends to the sides. This is to make removing the jelly easier. Set aside.
In a small bowl, add the cold water and sprinkle the gelatine powder over the surface of the water. Leave aside to bloom.
In a small saucepan, gently heat the coconut milk and sugar, and stir until the sugar dissolves. Once you notice tiny bubbles forming at the rim of the coconut milk and it’s relatively warm (but not boiling), remove it from the heat and stir in the gelatine mix until completely dissolved.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and refrigerate to set for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight. The jelly can be prepared ahead of time and will last in the fridge for 2 days.
4 egg whites, large (set aside the yolks to use later for the curd recipe)
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 pinch salt
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Preheat the oven to 325F.
Fill a medium sized saucepan with 1 inch of water and bring to a simmer.
In a clean heat-safe bowl, preferably a stainless steel one, combine the egg whites and sugar, and place the bowl over the pan with the simmering water, being careful to ensure that the water is not in direct contact with the bowl (we only want the steam to be in contact here). Whisk consistently but gently until the sugar is dissolved and the temperature reads 76C.
Switch off the heat on the stove (save the saucepan with the water for the curd recipe). Carefully remove the bowl from the top of the saucepan, being mindful of the hot bowl. Add the cream of tartar to the mix.
Using an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, whip on high for at least 4 minutes, until you reach stiff peaks, and the mix has cooled to room temperature, and looks glossy.
Add the cornstarch and vanilla and give it another few seconds on the machine until evenly combined.
Using the end of the whisk, dab a little meringue on each corner of the parchment to stick it to the cookie sheet to prevent the sides of the sheet from lifting in the oven.
Use a spatula or a large spoon and scoop out the rest of the meringue into the center of the traced circle. Spread it out and create a little dip in the center to hold all the goodies that’s to come!
Place the meringue in the oven and turn the heat down to 230F (if you know your oven runs hot, drop the temperature down to 200F and bake for slightly longer). Bake for at least an hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, taking care not to open the oven for the first hour. Check the meringue by tapping the edges lightly, it should be dry to the touch and crisp, and sound a little hollow.
Once it’s ready, turn the oven off and leave the meringue in the oven to dry out further and cool slowly, to prevent cracking. This could be for about 4 hours or overnight if you have the time. The cooled meringue keeps for a couple of days in an airtight container at room temperature.
Calamansi Curd Ingredients:
4 egg yolks
1 whole egg
½ cup sugar
½ cup calamansi juice
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
Place all the ingredients except the butter in a heat proof bowl and place the bowl on top of the saucepan with 1 inch of simmering water. Have the heat on medium low, ensuring there is adequate steam while the mix cooks.
Constantly whisk all the ingredients until the mixture starts to thicken and leaves a trace when the whisk is lifted.
Remove the pan from the heat. Whisk in the butter until homogenized. Pour out the curd into a clean bowl, through a sieve, to catch any overcooked egg whites (if any). Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the curd to prevent skin from forming. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. At this point, you can remove the plastic wrap and place in an airtight container (this can last for 5 days in the fridge).
Fresh passionfruit (optional)
Whipped cream (optional, but a must for some!)
This is where the fun starts! Prepare your fruits by rinsing and drying your berries and cubing the kiwifruit.
Handling the coconut jelly with care, cut into cubes or strips.
Give the calamansi curd a good stir.
Place the meringue on a large serving dish. Top generously with the curd. Have fun decorating with the rest of the berries and jelly cubes all over the pavlova. If you’d like to add the whipped cream portion, you can do so as a first step before the curd, or a second step after the curd.
Pile your berries high! The pavlova is ready to enjoy and is best served right after it’s garnished!
This dessert is best served within a a couple of hours of assembling. The pavlova will start weeping in the fridge if stored overnight. Enjoy it straightaway, at its peak!