Get My Swan Costume Ready. School Holiday Pavlova

It’s school holiday time in Melbourne, with kids in the kitchen and mess everywhere. The girls wanted to make something sweet but both have radically different tastes. After some negotiation, a pavlova was agreed upon, after some squabbling about suitable toppings. Before we grabbed the electric beaters, a detour through history into the life of Anna Pavlova was fun, something I had never thought about much before their visit. As Tchaikovsky played in the background, we admired all the beautiful old photos of Anna Pavlova in her divine longer tutus and portraits of her with her pet swan, Jack.

Anna Pavlova with pet swan, Jack
Anna Pavlova with pet swan, Jack. Photo from Pinterest.

We discovered other wonderful facts about Anna’s life, including her last words on her death-bed, “Get my Swan costume ready.” This is now our secret code for beating up egg whites or dying like a swan, which ever comes first.

kids in the kitchen
Kids in the kitchen sculpting a Pavlova

Pavlova is an easy dessert for young cooks to whip up. It doesn’t matter if it cracks or turns out misshapen. It will still taste great. Just crack and separate the eggs for them and hand over the electric beaters. They love watching the whites whip up into a big fluffy tutu. Once the eggs are standing up, the younger child adds in the sugar until the boss (me) says they are ready. Add a little cornflour, white vinegar and vanilla and let the kids do the sculpting on a papered tray.

Basic 4 egg Pavlova Recipe ( serves 6-8 )

  • 4 egg whites ( room temperature)
  • pinch of salt
  • 250 g caster sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornflour
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • few drops of pure vanilla

Preheat oven to 180°c. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Draw a 20 cm circle on the paper. Beat egg whites and salt until satiny peaks form. Beat in sugar, a third at a time, until meringue is stiff and shiny. Sprinkle over cornflour, vinegar and vanilla and fold in lightly. Mound onto paper lined tray and flatten top and smooth the sides. Place in the oven, immediately reduce heat to 150° c and cook for 1¼ hours. Turn off the oven and leave pavlova to cool. Invert pavlova and pile with chosen topping.

From Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion

While the meringue cooks and cools, it’s time to make the topping. I usually settle for whipped cream and brandy macerated strawberries or, in season, passionfruit. Daisy was happy to settle for this mundane option but not Charlotte. After rejecting a few of my suggestions, including a lemony custard, she decided on a chocolate mousse filling!! Warning, the following photos of this chocolate mousse pavlova may make you want to utter those dying swan words sooner than expected. This is a pavlova for kids and the young at heart.

Pavlova filled with chocolate mousse.
Pavlova filled with chocolate mousse.

Fast Chocolate Mousse Filling.

  • 200 gr packet of cooking chocolate, 45% solids.
  • a dash of rum or brandy
  • 4 egg yolks
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • some whipping cream to loosen.

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over hot water, making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the boiling water. Loosen with a little brandy or rum.

Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until very pale and thick. Add gradually to the bowl of melted chocolate.

Beat the cream until thick, then add to the chocolate mixture. Stir in well then set in the fridge.

A cake like this calls for some pretty floral cups.
A cake like this calls for some pretty floral cups.

PS. The chocolate mousse topping was ridiculously rich. from Charlotte 🙂

Anna Pavlova and jack the swan
Anna Pavlova and Jack the swan

Seasonal Reflections: the Annual Ballet Concert

Balet Concert 2012
Ballet Concert 2012

In the last month leading up to Christmas, life gets hectic and that, dear readers, is an understatement. Midst all the hoo-ha, congested roads, break ups and shopping frenzy sits the ‘Annual Ballet Concert.’ Many loving parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles and assorted others will have attended, or been roped into attending, at least one of these concerts in their lifetime, some out of duty and others out of sheer delight. I sit somewhere between these two sentiments. I have attended most of my granddaughters’ annual concerts over the years but managed to dodge a couple due to quick getaways conveniently pre-planned by Mr Tranquillo. Mr T, who is quite musical but missed out on the dancing gene, finds them a little more tedious than I do, although he sits up eagerly with delight when one of his own granddaughters hits the stage, craning his neck to get a better view.

Another ballet recruit. Daisy with Lottie, ballet Concert 2013.
Another ballet recruit. Daisy with Lottie, ballet concert 2013.

While these events are professional, with fabulous sound and costumes, well rehearsed prima donnas, held in vast, plush theatres owned by private schools (your taxes at work), my total admiration and respect goes to a couple of attendees, the parents of my son-in-law, Kerry and Robyn. Their unbroken tally now sits at 33 years of annual ballet concerts. Kerry, with a touch of irony intermingled with pride, explained further. He attended his own two daughters’ ballet concerts starting in 1982, but now that the eldest is principal of her own dance school, his participation has escalated over the years to helping backstage and with props. As 6 of his grandchildren also learn ballet, his involvement over the last 8 years has stretched to at least three concerts per year, making a total of 49 annual ballet concerts. Now that is dedication! Kerry and Robyn, take a bow. You deserve a medal.

Lottie: backstage adjustments. a touch of Degas.
Lottie backstage. A touch of Degas.

Have you attended your child’s annual concert this year? Are you a dutiful grandparent, aunt, uncle or friend? Do you feel emotional when your darling comes on stage?  Delight, laughter and tears, pride and occasional embarrassment, pure joy tainted with occasional boredom- that’s a ballet concert.