During my time on Masterchef, I have to say that Mystery Box challenge was definitely my favourite challenge of them all. I think it is the only challenge that I can actually show my creativity and flexibility by coming up a dish right on the spot with the only ingredients and time frame given. So I was actually quite excited when David Jones wanted to send me a hamper and asked me to come up with a recipe by using the items inside the hamper, I suddenly felt like I was being thrown back at the Masterchef kitchen once again.
This year David Jones’ hamper range is bigger and better, I was amazed by how fancy some of the hampers are. In fact, some of them don’t even look like hampers anymore! There are hampers come in picnic baskets with full cutlery set and picnic rug, then there is a champagne ice bucket filled with goodies, one comes with a full BBQ tool set, but most fancy of them all, has to be this treasure chest.
You can’t have Christmas without a pav here in Australia! It was a fun recipe to make. Whoever made pavlova before would know it does take time (usually overnight) to prepare the meringue. I normally go with the simple meringue recipe by whipping egg white with sugar, but of course you can just use the meringue recipe that you are comfortable with, either basic, Swiss or Italian meringue, is totally up to you. You can also make a big talk meringue or make thinner meringue disks like what I did here and then stack them up. And the rest, is also totally up to your imagination, I used quite a number of items from the hamper to tsjzu up this pavlova. Whatever you put on the pav, make sure all the flavours compliment each other. For e.g., if you are going to use summer fruit like mango, then maybe use white chocolate instead of dark, and pair with pineapple, passionfruit or coconut. In my case, I imagine it will be like a Black Forest cake with the combo of chocolate, cherries, strawberry and I also added crunchy toffee for texture. Either way, no one would say no to a delicious pav.
Christmas Pavlova by Billy Law, A Table for Two
6 egg whites
1½ cups caster sugar
1 tablespoon corn flour
1 teaspoon white vinegar
Mamma Marilena deluxe nibble mix (from the hamper)
1 cup of sugar
350ml thickened (heavy or double) cream
a punnet of cherries
Byron Bay triple choc fudge cookies (from the hamper)
Bonne Maman strawberry jam (from the hamper)
Bahlsen Waffeletten biscuit (from the hamper)
1. Preheat oven to 150C. Add egg whites into the bowl of a mixer, whisk the egg white on medium speed until soft peak.
2. While the mixer still running, gradually shower sugar into the egg white until all is added. Keep beating for another 2-3 minutes until the meringue has almost double its volume and stiff. Rub a little meringue between two fingers, it should feel smooth and glossy and all sugar has dissolved.
3. Turn the mixer speed down to medium-low, sprinkle cornflour into the meringue then vinegar, beat to mix well. Don’t let it beat too long, else it will deflate your meringue volume.
4. Get two large baking trays with shallow rims, using index finger and smear some meringue at all four corners and centre on the tray, then ‘glue’ baking papers on top of trays.
5. Use a large bowl as a guideline and draw 2 circles on the baking paper. Divide the meringue into 4 equal portions and place them in the middle of the circles. Use a palette knife and spread them out till they form the circles with even thickness all around.
6. Place trays in oven, then immediately turn the heat down to 100C. Bake meringue for 90 minutes and then turn off the heat. Do not open the oven door and leave the meringue to cool inside the oven, takes about 3-4 hours, best overnight.
7. To make the toffee, spread the Mamma Marilena deluxe nibble mix on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Add sugar to a small saucepan with a tablespoon of water. Place saucepan on high heat until sugar starts to melt, gradually turn into golden brown colour. Remove from heat quickly and pour hot sugar toffee over the nuts mixture. Leave the toffee to cool completely then smash them into small shards.
8. Add cream to a large mixing bowl, whisk the cream until it is stiff, do not over whip.
9. place a meringue disk on a plate and spread 1/4 of the cream on top, crush Byron Bay triple choc fudge cookies into crumbs and sprinkle all over, spread some Bonne Maman strawberry jam here and there, then place a few cherries all over. Place another meringue disk on top and repeat the process until the last meringue on top.
10. Spread the last bit of cream over the top. Decorate it with more cherries, toffee shards and Bahlsen Waffeletten biscuits.