Thursday, February 20, 2014

A Taste of Ireland: Berry and Baileys Pavlova

While everyone is Irish on St Patricks, we don't necessarily embrace the cuisine of the emerald isle in the most elegant of ways on this festive holiday. In fact, March 17th brings a flurry of fun recipes doused with vivid green food coloring, formed into cheeky shamrock shapes or featuring lucky rainbows. For a change, this year I thought I'd shelve the green dye in favor of a subtler confection featuring flavors indigenous to this wonderful country.
Until recently, I had no idea that the surprisingly simple pavlova (after all it was named for the famed Russian ballerina) is such a wildly popular dessert in Ireland. 
A quick online search yielded countless recipes and interpretations of this meringue based delight featuring fruit and cream fillings, including those with a dash of Irish liqueurs. Although more often enjoyed in summer, it is fast becoming a fitting dessert in honor of St. Patrick's Day.
Berry & Bailey's Pavlova
This recipe makes a modest sized pavlova serving about 4-5 but can be doubled and as it is very rich, small servings usually suffice. 
 I started with the basic meringue recipe I used in my New Years post, subbing vanilla for the orange flavor and making three large meringues as layers. 
Some Pavlova recipes call for small amounts of flour but the version below does not so it makes a lovely gluten-free option for guests with food sensitivities.
2 egg whites
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup superfine sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Filling and garnish
Heavy cream
Irish Cream liqueur to taste (I used baileys)
2-3 cups assorted Berries
Mint leaves
Sugar (I used superfine)
Agave nectar or honey

Preheat oven to 225
Beat egg whites until foamy. 
Sprinkle with salt and cream of tartar, continuing to beat until soft peaks form.
Add sugar and vanilla slowly while beating on high until stiff peaks form
This recipe made three 6 inch circles of meringue. I used an icing tip to draw circles and filled rest in with spoon. If desired a template can be placed under parchment and meringue traced for more perfect shapes. Bake 90 minutes on parchment lined cookie trays. Then let sit in oven (turned off) for 30 minutes with door ajar. Once cool carefully peel from paper.
Weeks of heavy snow meant limited produce at my supermarket so I opted for frozen mixed berries which I sprinkled with some sugar and let thaw. For filling simply whip 1 cup of cream with 1 teaspoon sugar and two teaspoons liqueur or more or less to taste.
Place meringue on serving plate, spread with whipped cream, top with berries and then more whipped cream. Repeat with next two meringues, making as level as possible.
For garnishes, I covered some berries and mint leaves with agave (I'm leery of using raw egg whites some recipes call for) and then sprinkled with sugar for a frosted look.
Any way you slice it, pavlovas are messy once cut into. I used extra whipped cream and mint leaves to try to prettify the dessert plates, drizzling some berry juice as an accent.
Serve with strong coffee or fragrant black tea.

For decor,
 I opted more for a deep green offset with neutrals, whites and cream tones.
In honor of the flocks of sheep which dot the Irish landscape, I added some (plastic) wooly friends in a terrarium to the tabletop.
 Since I already use these sheep in Christmas and Spring decor, and I'm a big fan of repurposing, for St. Patrick's, I simply added a printout of a photo I took from a trip to Ireland a few years ago as a background. Some greens and moss rocks from the dollar store complete the mini landscape.
Mist over Kylemore Abbey photo by C.Paul

White roses are an unexpected shift from the usual greenery.
 Ok, A disclaimer: the roses are repurposed from Valentine's (and somehow survived) 
Happily my "good" dishes feature a green accented rim.
 Keepsakes from travels add to the theme.
Yards of oatmeal colored burlap from the craft store serve as a tablecloth

For more Irish inspired ideas, please visit my post 
The Emerald Isle
Ireland in a Jar terrariums, Guiness Truffles, Paper Jewelry


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Candy Bar Makeovers: Sweets for the Sweet

Quick & Easy Candy Bar Makeovers 

Although today chocolate is an intrinsic part of Valentines Day, it is said that it wasn't until the mid 1800's, when artfully packaged by chocolatiers like Richard Cadbury, that this confection took a starring role in this most romantic of days. Since physicians at this time believed chocolate could help ease the woe of lovesick patients, it was the perfect gift for this holiday celebrating l'amour.
Whether you purchase your favorite variety at the corner store or a gourmet confectionery, lovely packaging can add to the fun and enjoyment of this most popular and in my case, highly addictive treat.
Ironically, I've created countless candy bar covers as favors for parties and showers but never for Valentine's Day. So I thought, this year I'd add a personal touch to one of my long time favorite, albeit humble, candy bars.
I got these oversize Hershey bars at my supermarket (3 for $4.00)

Combining free clip art, photos or images from the  the Graphics Fairy (a great resource), I created some wrappers with some cheeky sayings and a touch of romance.
The fun part is tailoring your designs and themes to the recipient or
feel free to use my designs at the end of the post
Since these bars didn't come with a foil liner, I simply rewrapped in aluminum foil, before discreetly taping on new cover.
and Voila…..

Bees are all the Buzz right now  
For literary types, you can't go wrong with Shakespeare
(I have this quote on my kitchen wall)
and of course For Feline Fanciers….
(This one features one of our rescue cats Angel)

If you like, you can printout these designs adjusting the size to fit your candy bar.

Wishing Everyone a Sweet

Valentine's Day!