You've never heard of a pavlova before, right? I certainly hadn't, but that's the fun of being a daring baker. This (originally Italian) dessert is yet another pastry that leans really heavily on eggs. I mean, really really heavily. I didn't count, but I believe the combined recipes for the different components of the pavlova probably use close to a dozen of the things. In a single dessert recipe! That's well and good for the omnis among us, but as a vegan any recipe that is such a large percentage egg presents an even greater challenge. It piques my self-righteous vegan bakerishness that the damned things are so hard to replace! Well, not always, of course. Most recipes use only one or two eggs, and these represent no problem at all. While my final product was delicious and hit the mark in some ways, I was destined to be disappointed in the elements for which that elusive mystery of leavening and coagulant are most sincerely wanting.
Enough preamble. Let me tell you about the pavlova. The basic idea is a baked meringue base (potentially full of vegan fail), topped with a mascarpone mousse (less tricky), and then drizzled with creme anglaise. While the final component wouldn't have been that difficult to veganize, in spite of the original recipe calling for 6 egg yolks, the recipes I found would have added quite a bit of expense to an already expensive challenge. For example, the recipes I found called for coconut milk and amazake, along with a bunch of other things that I don't routinely keep around the house. Since apparently some dissenting schools of thought maintain that the true pavlova must contain fruit, I opted to deviate from the otherwise decidedly chocolate version proscribed in the challenge notes in just this detail. I made a chocolate meringue, chocolate "mascarpone mousse," and used some delicious and local fresh cherries for my topping. I hope the DBitS (Daring Baker in the Sky) doesn't come down too hard on me for this deviation.
The most challenging element was obviously the meringue. As I'm sure you, dear reader, very well know, a meringue cookie is basically a slightly sweeter, baked version of the foamy stuff you have probably had on top of lemon pie. The cookie meringues are supposed to be very light (because they're mostly air), crispy on the outside, and chewy on the inside. How to veganize a cookie made primarily of whipped egg white? In some way, I always knew this day would come. The meringue is also the perfect deathblow with which to follow my defeat at the hands of the cream puff from last month. With all my moaning, though, I wouldn't want to give you the impression that meringue is a completely unconquered territory from the vegan point of view. That isn't at all the case. The trouble is that almost all successes have become proprietary or otherwise extremely difficult (read expensive) to attain for the average, unassuming vegan baker. On the one hand, there is this Vegan Meringue Mix manufactured by Angel Foods, of which Hannah Kaminsky offers a lovely review on her lovely blog. I couldn't quite use a box mix for something on the Daring Bakers, though, could I? On the other hand, the most successful fluffiness in the veganverse seems to rely on a substance called Versawhip. This stuff seems to be some kind of franken-technology made from soy protein that manages to stabilize air bubbles in your vegan fluff/meringue/what have you. They must not really want to sell the stuff to us plebs, though, because ordering a meager 2 ozs of the stuff would have set me back $16 after shipping. Seriously.
In the end, I went with this recipe from Adirondack Vegan's blog. I used my pastry bag and piped both small cookies and the larger pieces suggested in the challenge notes. The smaller pieces definitely puffed more than the large ones and had a nice, deep chocolatey flavor. I should note that I added 1/3 cup of cocoa powder to the above recipe. Though I thought they were pretty non-fantastic, C and my brother couldn't stop eating them. They were airy enough, but the outsides were still soft even though they were definitely cooked. I really wanted that meringue shell crispiness.
"cheese" recipe in this veganized tiramisu. It's been years since I had a dairy tiramisu, but this resulting "cheese" or "mousse" or whatever it is is seriously rich and delicious--the perfect accompaniment to a not very sweet meringue cookie. Since my small cookies worked out the best, I ended up making mini, not quite bite-sized, pavlovas. They were far from perfect, but we enjoyed them. I'm also inspired to continue experimenting with meringue. I'm sure to try any recipe I can find that comes neither from a box nor from the elusive versawhip, at least until they decide they actually want to sell the stuff to regular people.