Michelle Crawford’s Pavlova: An Interview With Dessert

Earlier this month Michelle Crawford got cheeky with us and now we’re rolling up our sleeves, putting on floral print aprons and getting serious. In my world, it doesn’t get more serious than the topic of dessert – and the same rules apply at the Crawford house in Tasmania’s verdant Huon Valley.

Homemade Brown Sugar Pavlova with a fresh crown of in-season fruits. It certainly gives pause for thought, doesn’t it? Say those words and my mind races straight to the mystery inherent in combining separate, simple ingredients to make something more. Or to the ritual of sharing recipes and following them, word-for-word, a recipe book falling open, intuitively, to a well-used page marked with runaway sugar granules and the stains of squashed raspberries.

Michelle knows plenty about all of those things, moving as she does in a world where recipes and kitchen rituals are part of both work and home life. Here she talks to us about the importance of ritual in her daily life in the Huon Valley and as the busy creator behind Hugo and Elsa and ‘A Table in the Orchard‘ (Random House Books, 2015).

So please get yourself comfortable, because this is the type of chat that ends with dessert.

Do you have any daily/weekly/yearly rituals? If so, what are they, and why do you do them?

I think my daily ritual revolves around a morning coffee – in the truest sense of the word ‘ritual’. It’s the first thing I do every day and it’s a quiet moment to myself that I really cherish.  I love the process of making the coffee and quietly sitting to enjoy it and reflect on the day ahead. That’s my dream morning, of course, because more often than not I’m fighting to light the wood stove, the dog and cat are wrestling on the kitchen floor, and my son wants help making breakfast.

My mornings are chaotic in reality! But if I can grab a quiet moment before it all begins, then it is very precious.

Because my children go to Steiner School, we’ve adopted many seasonal rituals and celebrations into our life, like telling the stories of advent on the four Sundays before Christmas Day, the midwinter spiral, autumn lantern walk and spring celebrations. We live in Tasmania, where the four seasons are very distinct, so these rituals help mark the special seasonal days and passing of time throughout the year.

How do the seasons become part of your routine and ritual in the Huon Valley? 

We’re not a spiritual family, in that we don’t follow any religion or religious rituals. But to us, the seasons are our religion, and we very much treasure the rituals and rhythms that people have followed for thousands of years, marked by the changing seasons. From cutting hay in summer, preserving produce and stacking firewood in autumn, spending time indoors and resting around the fire in the winter, and sowing seeds in spring, these are the seasonal rituals that we cherish.

Do you have a ritual meal at your house?

I try to have a Sunday lunch every week, where we can get together as a family and spend time sharing stories and a meal. But Christmas lunch is probably the most special ritual of the year. We always start the day with panettone for breakfast, while we prepare a feast of great Tasmanian produce, like oysters, cheeses, a roast pork from a friend’s farm, pink eye potatoes and vegetables from the garden.

We finish with a Brown Sugar Pavlova, it’s the perfect cake to load up with all the abundant summer fruits like cherries, raspberries, currants and strawberries.

Brown Sugar Pavlova

For this recipe I like to use brown sugar – it gives such a lovely, overall caramel flavour to the meringue.

Ingredients

  • 6 egg whites, at room temperature
  • a pinch of salt
  • 200g brown sugar
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornflour
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

To decorate, whip together:

  • 300ml cream
  • seeds from 1 vanilla bean

Top with:

500g raspberries or any seasonal fruit you like, such as cherries or strawberries.

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites and salt in a clean bowl until satiny peaks form. Slowly add the sugar, a third at a time at a time, ensuring it’s combined before adding more. Beat until the meringue is stiff and shiny. Rub a little meringue between your fingers to check if the sugar is dissolved, it should feel smooth. Sprinkle the vinegar and cornflour over the meringue and gently fold through.

Mound onto baking tray in a circle, about 20cm diameter, swishing and the top flat and smoothing the sides with the back of a spoon. Place in the oven then turn down the heat to 150°C and cook for 30 minutes. Reduce to 120°C and cook for a further 45 minutes. Turn oven off and leave the meringue to cool completely – overnight is best.

Invert meringue onto a cake stand, swirl on the vanilla cream and tumble over the raspberries.

(Images supplied by Michelle Crawford.)

Michelle answered 20 Cheeky Questions for us earlier in the month. Check out that interview here!

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