Patriotic Pavlova

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As an Americanadian, I have the privilege of celebrating the birth of nations on both sides of the 49th parallel. I grew up among Canadians who, come July 1st, would fire up their grills in the day, watch fireworks displays at night, and, for the avid bakers, seize the opportunity to cater a dessert buffet coloured red and white.

In comparison, the 4th of July boasts a more boisterous brand of patriotism. From infancy, Americans learn to brandish their heritage, enrobing themselves in stars and stripes, a sartorial statement that they are red, white, and blue, through and through. Gaggles of college guys, buzzed from beer and sunshine, chant about freedom and “‘Murica,” met with mild disapproval or, equally as often, mild amusement. And whereas the Canadian anthem sings smoothly and slowly, the American anthem rides like a roller coaster that hurtles up to high notes when you least expect them, prone to producing off-key cadences either belted out with gusto or, for those with less vocal aptitude and lung capacity like yours truly, finished in a winded, wheezing flourish.

Yet, what threatens to become a day of star-spangled sensory overload somehow does not. Instead, it is a symphony of sounds, smells, and sights – watermelon split open with the thwack of a knife and perfuming the air, children and canine companions splashing in swimming pools and lakes, fireworks blasting and blooming across the sky – harmonizing into one loud and proud commemoration of independence and celebration of America’s birthday.

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This Patriotic Pavlova operates in much the same way. Sundry flavors, aromas, and textures coalesce into a confection that somehow works. The gentle heat of the oven coaxes the marshmallowy cloud into a meringue. A crisp crust forms and, promptly thereafter, cracks, folding and fissuring under its own weight. Yogurt whipped into cream, once dolloped onto the meringue, simultaneously creeps into the crevices and crests in soft, snowy peaks. A halo of blueberries and cherries soon joins the cream in crowning the confection. Tart fruit juices burst like sunbeams with every bite, counterbalancing the tang of yogurt and the delicate sweetness of the meringue. In the sticky summer heat, scoops of vanilla ice cream plopped onto plates pool around the slices of pavlova, ready to catch any crumb or shard that breaks off when spoon carves into crust. It is as airy-fairy as ballet performances by its eponym and sugar-spun fantasies of Bomb Pops and flag cakes realized on this special day.

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PATRIOTIC PAVLOVA

Ingredients

Pavlova:
4 egg whites
1¼ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp corn starch

Yogurt Whipped Cream:
½ cup plain Greek yogurt
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp confectioner’s sugar

Fruit Toppings:
Blueberries
Cherries, halved

May the Fourth Be With You

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Gradually add sugar, and beat until thick and glossy. Gently fold in vanilla extract, lemon juice, and corn starch. Spoon mixture on paper in an approximately 8-inch circle. Spread out from center, leaving a slight depression. Bake for 1 hour. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, beat heavy cream, and gradually add yogurt. Add maple syrup and sugar to taste. Keep beating until soft peaks form. Once the pavlova is out of the oven and has cooled, fill the center of the pavlova with the yogurt whipped cream, and top with fruit. Serve with vanilla ice cream to mimic the effect of a Baked Alaska, or enjoy on its own.

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