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Archive for Martha Stewart

the perils of baking pavlova

< by Jill >

Growing up,  adults often strung the words “your mother” and “Martha Stewart” into the same sentence. Typically, they did so with mouths half-full of chocolate torte or blueberry coffee cake. They’d lift their gaze, drop their chins, and gush, “This is SO good.”

I still can’t crack an egg with one hand (or rather, I can, if you like crunchy eggs) but I do have a strong sense of flavor and composition. I honed these skills under my mother’s tutelage, watching as she folded cake-batter with broad swoops of the spatula. My big sister Ann also apprenticed this way, perched alongside me at the counter.

When Ann was in 4th grade, she learned to make Pavlova, an Australian meringue dessert. It begins with egg whites and sugar, whipped to stiff peaks and baked on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Then, it’s topped with Chantilly cream and fresh fruit.

By winter, Pavlova had become a family mainstay.

On New Year’s Eve that year, my parents decided that Ann and I could stay home alone as they attended a neighborhood party. We were over the moon — Home alone! Just imagine the possibilities! — but after wandering around the house for an hour, we got bored and decided to bake a cake.

We preheated the oven, grabbed a cookbook, and ransacked the pantry. My next memory is black smoke, billowing out of the oven in thick plumes. The smoke flooded every corner of the home, drawing a hazy veil between me and Ann as we argued about whether to call 911, call mom and dad, or figure this out on our own (in order to avoid BIG TROUBLE).

Finally, we called the party. Our parents rushed home to find two scared girls, one ash-dusted house, and one charred husk of a Pavlova. It had been hiding in the oven the whole time.

That’s the year I resolved to always peek inside the oven before preheating it.

A homemade pavlova decorated with pomegranate ...

A homemade pavlova decorated with pomegranate seeds and chantilly cream. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)