This creation was more or less a challenge to myself. I had a friend over, and we were talking about baking - why bother with all of this if you can buy cakes and cookies cheaply at the grocery? I commented that while my creations may not be as pretty as what can be bought at any mega-mart, I'd like to think they taste better. Besides, when was the last something you saw something real fancy at a standard grocery store? This got us talking about a fancy dessert shop in downtown San Diego, and my friend's favorite dessert there - a berry pavlova. I bet her I could make one, so we went to the grocery store and bought supplies.
The Trader Joe's I stopped by didn't have any berries but blackberries, but I saw kiwifruit and strawberries available cheaply, so I grabbed a package each of those. I found a recipe for pavlova on Simply Recipes, then made a vanilla ice cream batter for the sauce. If you want to make a similar recipe, just use your favorite ice cream recipe without running the batter through the churner - or on the other hand, you could buy some ice cream and just let it melt.
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
6 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 pint each, strawberries and kiwifruit
1 recipe vanilla ice cream batter
Preheat oven to 275ºF, line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine cornstarch with granulated sugar and mix together with a fork. In a stand mixer fitted with a whisking attachment, whip the egg whites together with cream of tartar and salt, beginning at medium-low speed until soft peaks with small bubbles form (2-3 minutes). Increase speed to medium-high and very slowly add the sugar-cornstarch mixture, then add vanilla. Increase speed to high and whip until glossy and stiff (4-5 minutes). Spoon out 8-12 mounds, about three inches across, and indented in the center with the back of a spoon to hold the fruit. Place baking sheets into oven and lower the temperature to 250ºF, bake 50-60 minutes or until dry to the touch. Should not be browned or cracked. In the meantime, prepare the kiwifruit and hull the strawberries, then slice into bite-sized pieces. Chill ice cream batter in refrigerator. Remove baked pavlova from oven and allow to cool to room temperature before removing from baking sheets. Top with fruit and ice cream batter. Serves 8-12.
In the end, I made 12 pavlova, each under a dollar to make, fruit and sauce included. I think at the restaurant it's at least 8 times that much, if not more. Given, my presentation is still lacking from theirs, but if I wanted to spend some extra money I could top it off with gold leaf and flowers like they do. Or do something more artistic with the fruit. Still, I'd like to think this is more than what you'd get at your standard grocery.