Syttende mai and Pavlova

Nothing better than the most expected day by everybody around here (that’s statistics saying!) for the debut of the page: syttende mai!


Syttende mai
, or May 17th, is Constitution Day in Norway, national holiday and flag day!, that’s why all houses have from little flags on the windows to big ones on their balconies. It is the top, above even Christmas, on the list of most celebrated holidays by the Norwegians. Their constitution was signed this very day in 1814 and declared Norway an independent kingdom, as an attempt to avoid being ceded to Sweden after their loss in the Napoleonic wars.

The main event are the street parades,organized by the most different kinds of institutions – from schools to LGBT, and all ages from babies in strollers to elders in wheel chairs. Really nice to see! Here in Ålesund it even seems that the city is big so many people there are out on the streets – not usual!

All around town the Norwegians wear their best clothes (that was yesterday’s dressing code!) or their bunader – as are called  Sami people’s traditional clothing, indigenous people who inhabited the regions that nowadays correspond to parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. The clothing is a sight to see! and let’s mention the kids, because there were A LOT of kids!

 

and nothing stopped families from leaving home because of a young child! The babies are also included in the fun!

A great aspect of the celebration is that there is zero military intervention. Nope. Null. The date started to be celebrated naturally and gradually along the years, and it has never been military. It was started mostly by students and has since then represented the pride of the citizens towards their country, as beautifully and organized  as it could be. It starts early in the morning, with many choirs all around town and besides the many children groups, some others are well characterized and have choreographies, songs and uniforms.

And even being a little out of focus, I couldn’t just let this one pic go 🙂 This group went on the parade just like any other, no bad booing or extra fuzz – and in my opinion where all the beauty lies – it went on the same as all the others. Just. the. same.

If the family has little ones, the celebration continues in their schools with activities and games. If not, they generally throw a barbecue! Yeeees, a typical European sausage barbecue! May 17th is associated with hot dogs, ice cream and dessert! What else could I ever want? And it was for celebrating (because one doesn’t eat a pavlova on his own, watching TV) that I decided to bake (my first) pavlova!

Pavlova is an Australian (nope, not Russian) or New Zealander decadent dessert named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova while she toured the world in 1926. It is basically a big baked meringue with a marshmallowy inside. As topping, we use cream and fresh, soft, strong-tasted fruit, generally berries, but mangoes and passion fruit is also common. The recipe varies little, since it carries only 4 basic ingredients but I checked mine with one on the back of the lid of a Norwegian egg box – in a special May 17th edition (!!), and made it more consistent with the Norwegian taste here!

It is nice because it may be prepared in advance of even some days (and really shoud, because it takes long baking time and should be left to cool completely naturally yet inside the oven) and quickly finalized befores served – because of the meringue’s sensibility to humidity, the cream over the basis may make it humid and loose its so wanted crunchy crust. With the pavlova, the order is “ready, set, go!” in order to make the most of its crunchy outside and marshmallowy inside.

Ingredients:

– 4 room tempeture egg wites
– pinch of cream of tartar
– 1 1/4 cups sugar
– 1/4 tsp vanilla
– 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
– 1 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar

– 300ml cream at least 35% fat
(- 2 tbsp sugar)
~200g fresh fruit, some jam and confectioners sugar to decorate

0. Pre heat the oven to 300F and ideally prepare a baking sheet with a silicon mat. You can also use a good baking parchment.

1. Start the meringue by beating the egg whites with the whisk attachment in a completely free of fat bowl to get maximum volume. We want volume!
*When it starts to froth, add the cream of tartar: I always use it when I want to make the most of the egg whites volume. It enhances this characteristic and also stabilizes them, giving us a little more time to work before they liquefy. You can omit it, but don’t let it stand still for more than a few seconds.

2. When they reach soft peaks, start adding the sugar, little by little, while still whisking. What we want here is a stiff peak shine meringue, free of sugar grains. Test with your fingertips: if by the end of the sugar adding there are still some grains, whisk a little more. Add the vanilla and whisk to incorporate.

3. Sift the cornstach and add the vinegar into the egg whites and mix to incorporate. Do not over mix to avoid losing volume.

4. Put the meringue on the silicon mat forming a 8-9 in diameter, 2-2.5 in high disc. For the pavlova to have the desired soft inside, this height is important. If you make swirls on the meringue surface, they will keep after baking and let your pavlova more beautiful yet! Put in the oven and immediately lower the temperature to 250F. Bake for about 75 minutes and don’t let it brown. The pavlova should look very light in color.

The meringue will puff and eventually crack a little. Some recipes call for higher temperatures and lower baking time, but the price is extra cracking. If you want it little cracked, take your time.

At the end of the 75 minutes, turn off the oven bot don’t remove the meringue. Let it cool inside until completely cool or overnight. Bringing it out can cause collapsing because of a thermal shock.

As stated, one doesn’t eat pavlova on his own. So half an hour before your guests arrive, whisk the cold cream to firm peaks with the sugar (or without it. or with less than that. or more. however you wish) and pour it over the already cooled meringue. To top it, scatter the chosen fruits over some jam you think matches. Here I used strawberries and blueberries on 2 tbsp of blueberry jam. It was definitely a win! It lacked the confectioners sugar, though. By the time I looked at the pavlova, it told me “Laís, it lacks confectioners sugar”. Yep, I know. It also lacked taking more decent photographs, I am sorry, but you know – people coming, pavlova getting older, and puf! there was no time! It was over pretty fast (YAY!)

Makes ~12 slices and 6 people very happy 🙂

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