I admit it--I am easily swayed by magazine covers. Oh, never fear, Gentle Reader, I don't have the budget to pursue those covers. No quaint Parisian hideaway vacations or brand spanking new, near professional level kitchens for me. But I do sigh and get wistful and wonder why my Living Beautifully on a Budget new year's resolution (and this is the second year for that particular resolution) never even gets close to the serene perfection of those magazine covers. I know an entire team assembled that photo, and that it took hours to make everything perfect, and cost tens of thousands of dollars, but while I have great will power when it comes to resisting advertising when it tries to insidiously make me spend money/feel inferior/crave something I probably don't even want, part of me still wishes my kitchen or garden or bedroom looked like that cover.
So, when I saw a dessert on the cover of a recent Victoria magazine, I thought "Aha! A do-able cover! I can make that!" It was a strawberry pavlova. I had an overabundance of strawberries, having been to Costco the week before, that I had to use before they turned. I had an overabundance of eggs, having been unable to pass the sale price of 77 cents for a dozen at the grocery store the weekend before, and I had a mixer. So I dove in.
It wasn't as difficult to construct as I thought (or feared), but my oven, which runs a tad hot and normally incinerates things in half the time the recipe calls for something to slowly brown, didn't dry out the meringue in two hours. It took two and a half, and I didn't realize the center wasn't completely done until I took the pastry out of the oven the next morning and tried to take it off the parchment paper. It stuck in the middle. Being foolhardy, I decided to risk food poisoning, pop it back in the oven for a few hours, and trust my immune system was up to dealing with the fallout of less-than-completely-cooked egg whites. I thought the meringue had whipped up nice and stiff, but it spread out a little during the baking, so it was squat and lopsided, rather than tall and majestic. But the strawberries were perfectly sweet, no food poisoning resulted, and it was delicious if not magazine-cover beautiful.
But, Living Beautifully on a Budget means enjoying what life brings, not fussing over shortcomings. Herewith, my first Strawberry Pavlova. And one lesson learned--the magazine may not tell you how to cut into the pavlova, which means you make a bit of a mess when you do try to cut, but a messy dessert is still delicious. It's not how you slice it, it's how it tastes that's important.