brown sugar walnut tang yuan in persimmon ginger soup

hotteok tang yuan

I once made some black sesame-filled hotteok, the filling reminding me of black sesame tang yuan. Getting a bit topsy-turvy, here is the inverse: a tang yuan with a brown sugar, walnut and cinnamon filling inspired by hotteok!

hotteok tang yuan
hotteok tang yuan
hotteok tang yuan
hotteok tang yuan

To go with it: a soup inspired by sujeonggwa, a Korean punch made with cinnamon, ginger and usually red dates and dried persimmons. As I already had cinnamon in the filling, I focused on the ginger, persimmon and red dates. It’s a cozy, wintery take on tang yuan and wonderfully warming!

hotteok tang yuan
hotteok tang yuan
hotteok tang yuan

Happy winter!

hotteok tang yuan

brown sugar walnut tang yuan with persimmon ginger soup

  • Servings: 12 tang yuan
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Tang yuan adapted from Woks of Life and Fuscia Dunlop’s Every Grain of Rice. Hotteok inspiration from Korean Bapsang and sujeonggwa inspiration from My Korean Kitchen.

persimmon ginger broth

  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • a few slices fresh ginger
  • 4 dried red dates
  • 2 dried persimmons, cut into wedges or chunks
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar

hotteok tang yuan filling

  • 15g all-purpose flour
  • 30g brown sugar
  • 30g butter, lard or coconut oil, melted
  • `1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch salt
  • 1 generous tbsp chopped toasted walnuts

tang yuan dough

  • 100g glutinous rice flour
  • 75-95g lukewarm water
  • 1/2 tsp oil

For the broth, combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes, then cover and set aside to steep while you make the tang yuan.

For the filling, place the flour in a small dry pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the flour smells a bit toasted and cooked, around 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer to a small bowl. Add the brown sugar, melted butter/lard/coconut oil, cinnamon, salt and chopped walnuts. Stir together, then place in the fridge to firm up.

Once firmed, divide the filling into 12 portions (about 6g each) and roll each into a little ball. Return to the fridge to keep firm until ready to assemble. (Initially I did roll mine in more rice flour as seen in the photographs, but I found it easier to assemble the tang yuan without doing that.)

For the dough, stir together the rice flour, water and oil. Begin with 75g of water and add more as needed to form a soft dough with a putty-like consistency. Divide the dough into 12 portions (about 16-17g apiece) and roll each into a ball.

To assemble, take the filling from the fridge. Poke your thumb into a ball of dough to create a cup like shape and fill with a portion of filling. Push the surrounding bits of dough up to completely cover the filling and roll between your palms into a smooth sphere. If the dough starts to crack a bit, moisten your palms with a dab of water. Repeat with the remaining portions until all the tang yuan are filled.

Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Drop in the tang yuan, bring back to a boil and then set to a simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes or until the tang yuan are soft and the filling is melted. Meanwhile, reheat the persimmon ginger soup.

To serve, scoop 2-3 tang yuan into a bowl and cover with a ladleful or two of the warm soup.

houjicha, kinako & peach tiramisu

houjicha kinako peach tiramisu

Maybe I have developed a bit of a tiramisu obsession. I love the flavours of coffee and marsala, but also the format of a well saturated cake component with plenty of thick cream – and it lends itself well to other flavour profiles too. Which means I can make even more tiramisu!

And I think this one is particularly lovely – it has both the toasty flavours of houjicha (roasted green tea) and kinako (roasted soybean powder), layered with fresh peaches and a mascarpone cream.

houjicha kinako peach tiramisu
houjicha kinako peach tiramisu
houjicha kinako peach tiramisu
houjicha kinako peach tiramisu

I put this together much like one would a regular tiramisu. Begin with a layer of ladyfingers soaked in houjicha – I think it’s a great substitute as it has the body of coffee, but with a gentler tea flavour. After that, scatter a layer of diced peaches and cover it all with a marscarpone-based cream. Finish with kinako, which is often served heavily dusted over different varieties of wagashi, generously sprinkled overtop.

I made mine in a 23x32cm (~9×12″) oval saute pan (area of about 577cm2) ; alternatively, you could make this in a 9×9″ square pan (area of about 480cm2 so layers will be a bit thicker). If you have a deeper dish for a double layered tiramisu, you may need to double the recipe.

houjicha kinako peach tiramisu

houjicha, kinako & peach tiramisu

  • Servings: 23x32cm oval pan
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Mascarpone cream adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction, with technique for cooking the eggs borrowed from Stella Park’s semifreddo.

mascarpone cream

  • 2 large eggs
  • 35g sugar
  • 200g mascarpone
  • 2 tbsp marsala
  • 200g heavy cream, whipped

houjicha soak

  • 60mL hot water
  • 1 tbsp houjicha powder

assembly

  • 2 peaches, peeled and chopped into 1-1.5cm cubes (200g chopped peaches)
  • ~2 dozen homemade ladyfingers (see recipe below; you’ll need fewer if storebought larger ones)
  • kinako

special equipment

  • 23x32cm (~9×12″) oval pan – the closest standard pan is probably a 9×9″ square tin, or use whatever you have and spread the components thicker or thinner

for the mascarpone cream, whisk together the eggs and sugar in a glass bowl. Set over a saucepan of simmering water and stir constantly with a rubber spatula, heating the eggs until they reach 165F. They’ll appear syrupy and quite warm to the touch.

Transfer the eggs to the bowl of a standmixer and whip until they become pale, opaque, more voluminous and cool, about 10-15 minutes on medium-high to high speed. The eggs should be thick enough to mound up when dropped from the whisk. (As it’s a smaller volume, it’s a bit tricky to really whip them up with the standmixer – they’ll likely only be doubled in volume instead of quadripled.)

Cream the mascarpone and marsala together in a large bowl. Fold in the whipped cream, then fold in the eggs. 

for the houjicha soak, whisk together the hot water and houjicha powder.

to assemble, have a 23x32cm (~9×12″) oval pan at hand. Dip both sides of the ladyfingers in the houjicha soak and use to cover the bottom of the pan. Break the cookies into pieces as needed to fill in all the gaps. Scatter the chopped peaches evenly over the cookies, then dollop the mascarpone overtop. Spread into an even layer with an offset spatula. Place in the fridge for at least couple hours or overnight. Just before serving, dust the top generously with kinako.

savoiardi (ladyfingers) 

Makes about 3 dozen 9cm savoiardi. Adapted from As Easy as Apple Pie, with some adjustments to the method. 

  • 43g all-purpose flour
  • 20g potato starch or corn starch
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 50g sugar, divided
  • Pinch salt
  • pinch cream of tartar
  • 7g milk

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a 3/4 baking sheet with parchment paper (or use two regular half baking sheets).

Whisk together the flour and cornstarch in a small bowl. 

Place the egg whites in the bowl of a standmixer along with half of the sugar (25g), salt and cream of tartar. Whip until stiff peaks are just formed (if anything, aim a little under – very firm, approach stiff). 

While the egg whites whip, in a large bowl whisk the egg yolks and remaining 25g sugar with a handwhisk until very light, fluffy and doubled or tripled in volume. Whisk the milk into the egg yolks.

Whisk a dollop of the egg whites into the egg yolks to lighten, the fold in the remaining egg whites with a rubber spatula. Sift the flour mixture over top. Fold in gently until just combined.

Fill a piping bag fitted with a 1.2cm round tip (I used Wilton 2A – you can also pipe them bigger if you prefer!) and pipe strips of batter about 9cm long on the prepared trays. 

Bake for about 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool, then store in an airtight container.

rhubarb & ginger eton mess (…or what to do with failed pavlova)

rhubarb ginger eton mess

My biggest piece of advice for low sugar baking is: temper your expectations. Decide what tradeoffs you don’t mind! Roll with the punches! Because in some cases, sugar is pretty important… such as in the case of pavlova. I’ve been trying to inch my way down with the sugar (usually I do 1:1, here I tried a cautious 0.67:1), and more recently wanted to give it a try in individual form.

Low sugar pavlova, as it turns out, does not crisp so well. Hence while you’re in the business of trying to achieve a thin, crisp outer layer, mini pavs can become dry all the way through – cooked to styrofoam stage instead of marshmallow.

Another issue with low sugar pavlova is that it develops a bit of a gumminess. It is semi-remedied if you cook it all the way through to the styrofoam stage… and the softening effect of plenty of cream and fruit juices will help re-soften it again too.

Continue reading “rhubarb & ginger eton mess (…or what to do with failed pavlova)”

black forest clafoutis

black forest clafoutis

I love black forest takes on dessert and here is yet another! Clafoutis is dreadfully simple and this version is no exception – throw all the ingredients in a blender, then into a pan. A quick bake and you have a chocolatey set custard dotted with cherries. Serving with whipped cream is a must.

black forest clafoutis
black forest clafoutis
black forest clafoutis
black forest clafoutis

For pretentious drama I baked this one in my dad’s old saute pan, but this can certainly be baked in another type of baking dish – a greased 8″ square or 9″ round cake tin, for instance, or a glass or ceramic baking dish. Depending on the size the clafoutis may end up a bit thicker.

black forest clafoutis

black forest clafoutis

Makes a generous clafoutis in a 23x32cm (~9×12″) oval saute pan. Alternatively, you can make a bit of a thicker clafoutis in an 8″ square or 9″ round dish.

  • 375g cherries, pitted
  • 3 tbsp kirsch
  • 45g all-purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • 40g granulated sugar 
  • 3 large eggs
  • 18g cocoa powder
  • 45mL boiling water
  • 225g half-and-half cream
  • 45g dark chocolate (70% cocoa), melted

Preheat the oven to 375F. Lightly butter the pan.

Stir together the pitted cherries and kirsch in a large bowl and set aside while you prepare the batter.

Place the remaining ingredients into a blender. Blend until smooth. Pour the batter into the bowl containing the cherries and kirsch and stir together.

Pour into the prepared pan and evenly spread out the cherries. Bake for about 20-30 minutes or until the clafoutis is set.

Serve warm with plenty of whipped cream.

chocolate genmaicha purin

chocolate genmaicha purin

The way I wrote recipes pre-blog went something like this: a list of ingredients + maybe a baking temperature +/- possibly a baking time. Either on a sticky note (destined to be accidentally thrown out) or in an obscure word document that I would never find again.

It took some searching, but I did find one word document again while I looking for a genmaicha-infused chocolate caramel custard I had made back in high school. It was written, of course, in typical fashion: a list of ingredients (no baking temperature, no baking time). To be fair to my former self, since I was making quite a few puddings at the time, I likely had the procedure memorized.

Continue reading “chocolate genmaicha purin”

strawberry milk with matcha panna cotta

strawberry milk latte with matcha panna cotta thumbnail

Last fall my roommate and I spent an hour in line at the new Machi Machi, a Taiwanese tea shop chain, that had opened up in Toronto – the wait an obvious necessity, my roommate pointed out, as after all, Jay Chou is a fan. We also discovered that Machi Machi drinks make for perfect colour-coded fashion accessories and there is a super cute wall to take photos with (note: none of these infants, dogs or fashionistas are me).

Long wait aside, we both agreed that the fresh strawberry latte with panna cotta (also a fashion necessity) was our favourite – strawberries pureed with milk, poured over a soft and jiggly panna cotta, and the whole thing drank with a straw. (It must be said: eating panna cotta with a straw is pure brilliance.)

Continue reading “strawberry milk with matcha panna cotta”

houjicha & persimmon dorayaki

persimmon houjicha dorayaki

This is day 9 of a series celebrating local Toronto businesses!  Recent events have put many local businesses in a difficult position and unfortunately, it’s not clear when this situation will come to an end. For ten days I’ll be posting recipes inspired by some of my favourite local businesses as my own way of celebrating what they bring to our communities. While we may not be able to visit our local bakeries, cafes and restaurants right now, this is a way of keeping them in mind, and a reminder to support them again once there is a chance.

Okay, so one more café (my guilty pleasure).

Ninetails Coffee Bar is a newer addition to the Bloor Koreatown strip serving coffee, matcha and Japanese sweets to a cheery backdrop of pop-y Beatle’s covers and doo-wop. Their freshly made dorayaki are generously-sized and sandwich one of three fillings – anko, custard, and matcha custard. My previous dorayaki experiences have all emerged from imported plastic packaging, where I had assumed the perfectly shaped pancakes were due to the magic of food manufacturing technology. However, the pancakes at Ninetails are actual embodiments of perfection as well: circular, evenly deep brown, and branded with a small nine-tailed fox. They’re firm, honeyed, surprisingly tender, and sport a bouncy chew unlike an American style pancake. Against that backdrop, I am most partial to the thick soft swirl of custard cream as a filling. (On the savoury side, they also happen to have an avocado toast of miracles – thick-cut crusty bread piled with an eqi-thickness of avocado, toasted sesame oil, furikake and shichimi togarashi.)

persimmon houjicha dorayaki
persimmon houjicha dorayaki
persimmon houjicha dorayaki

Fresh dorayaki has been a revelation, as has been the creativity of their fillings beyond anko. It gave me some inspirational leeway to brainstorm other dorayaki filling flavours. I filled these ones with a houjicha pastry cream and a very end of season persimmon compote. It’s a mellow, comforting combination.

persimmon houjicha dorayaki
persimmon houjicha dorayaki

houjicha & persimmon dorayaki

  • Servings: 5 dorayaki
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Makes five 3 1/2 – 4″ dorayaki (10 pancakes).

pancake

Pancake recipe from Cooking with Dog.

  • 2 eggs
  • 60g sugar
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 50mL water
  • 120g cake flour
  • 1-2 tbsp of water

Whisk eggs with sugar and honey, and beat for 3 min (i.e. listen to one song while you do this) until light and thick. Dissolve the baking soda in 50mL water and whisk into the eggs.

Sieve the flour overtop, and whisk until just combined. Cover and let the batter rest in the fridge for 15-30 minutes.

Add 1 tbsp of water at a time to make batter flow fluidly (see the original recipe for a video which gives you a sense of the desired consistency).

Heat a nonstick pan over medium or medium low. Once heated, pour a bit of oil into the pan and rub in a thin layer over the pan. When making the pancakes, pour the batter from a few inches above the pan in one spot to allow the batter to spread out into a circle on its own. I found it took around 35g (3 tbsp) of batter to make a 3 ½” diameter circles. Cook the pancake until you can see bubbles appearing under the surface, then scoot around the edges of the pancake with the spatula to loosen before flipping. Cook for another 30 seconds or so on the second side or until the pancake is springy and the bottom is golden brown.

Set the pancakes on a tray and cover with a damp kitchen towel to soften the surface and keep them from drying out. Repeat until all the batter is used. It will make about 10 pancakes.

houjicha pastry cream

  • 2 tsp houjicha powder
  • 1 tbsp boiling water
  • 240g whole milk
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 15g cornstarch
  • 35g granulated sugar, or more to taste
  • a pat of butter

Have a sieve set over a bowl for when you’re done the pastry cream.

Whisk together the houjicha powder and water until smooth and no lumps remain. Place the milk in a saucepan and whisk in the houjicha mixture.

Whisk together the egg yolks, cornstarch and sugar in a small bowl.

Heat the milk until steaming, then pour into the egg yolk mixture while whisking constantly to temper the egg. Return to the saucepan and continue to cook, whisking constantly (or stirring constantly with a rubber spatula) until the pastry cream begins to thicken and bubble (you will need to briefly pause your whisking to check for bubbling – it will look like a slow sort of “burp”). Cook for 1 minute at a bubble, whisking vigorously, to ensure that the cornstarch is cooked.

Immediately remove from the heat and scrape into a sieve, passing it through the sieve to remove any lumps and into a bowl. Whisk in the butter. Cover, let cool, then chill completely. When ready to use, whisk to loosen the cream.

vanilla persimmon compote

  • about 100g fuyu persimmon, peeled and cut into dice
  • sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste

Peel the persimmon and cut into chunks. Place a small saucepan with a small splash of water, a sprinkle of sugar and the vanilla bean paste. Simmer, stirring, until the fruit is tender and the liquid is reduced and syrupy. Let cool completely.

assembly

Match each pancake with another close in size. Dollop some pastry cream on one of the pancakes and spread so that it is thicker in the middle than along the edges. Press some chunks of persimmon compote into the pastry cream and top with the matching pancake. Chill for a bit before eating which allows the pastry cream to firm up a little bit and makes them easier to cut without the pastry cream squishing out.

Notes on making dorayaki:

  • 1. Making consistently sized dorayaki – for this recipe you can use a 1/4 cup scoop filled about 3/4 of the way. What I find helps me make even more consistently sized dorayaki is to measure out the same amount of batter into a small bowl and then use that to pour the pancakes. For this recipe, measure out 35g of batter into a small bowl and repeat with each pancake (keep using the same bowl). The first pancake add a few grams extra as some batter will remain in the bowl.
  • 2. Oiling the pan – I find it’s better to use a bit more oil the first time and get a not so nice looking pancake (use it on the bottom of a dorayaki). It gives the pan a chance to be seasoned so the subsequent dorayaki don’t stick.
  • 3. When to flip the pancakes – In my first couple batches, I found I tended to end up with very thick dorayaki, even with proper batter consistency. I realised that it was because I was waiting too long to flip the pancakes over – I would wait until bubbles had appeared, risen to the surface and popped all over the surface of the pancake. Rather, I found it is best to look for the bubbles to appear under the surface, but not quite reach the surface and pop – then flip the pancakes over for a still fluffy pancake, but with more manageable thickness!
  • 4. Making thin dorayaki – another way to ensure you have thinner dorayaki is to use a thinner batter (which is what I did in the batch photographed). If you add about 4 tbsp of water to the batter (instead of 1-2) so that it is the consistency of thick cream, it ensures you make thinner pancakes, but there are some drawbacks to the texture – not quite as bouncy and tender as usual! As for when to flip: the batter bubbles very easily when it is this thin, so flip the pancakes where bubbles are clearly visible across the pancake.

Update notes: Updated November 2021.

black sesame hotteok

black sesame hotteok
black sesame hotteok
black sesame hotteok

This is day 5 of a series celebrating local Toronto businesses!  Recent events have put many local businesses in a difficult position and unfortunately, it’s not clear when this situation will come to an end. For ten days I’ll be posting recipes inspired by some of my favourite local businesses as my own way of celebrating what they bring to our communities. While we may not be able to visit our local bakeries, cafes and restaurants right now, this is a way of keeping them in mind, and a reminder to support them again once there is a chance.

Hodo Kwaja, a bakery located in one of Toronto’s Koreatowns, is an efficient bustle of activity in the morning. The small nut-brown walnut cakes that the bakery is named after trundle by on a conveyer-belt like waffle iron. Along the way they are methodically filled, either with red bean paste, or my favourite, sweet and milky mashed potato mixed with ground almond or walnut. Bought by the half dozen – or several dozen – they’re scooped from wire baskets into paper bags or boxes.

Next to the hodo kwaja, hotteok, brown sugar filled pancakes are smacked onto an oiled griddle and pressed flat with a large wooden-handled aluminum stamp. Thin, chewy dough surrounds a syrupy centre of molten brown sugar seeping with cinnamon and chopped walnuts.

I first tried the hotteok, years ago when I was just visiting Toronto. “They’re amazing,” my sister promised me. And they were – we shared it as we walked, ripping off pieces of pancake. Think cinnamon sticky bun pressed into a delightfully chewy pancake form – one big enough to hold with both hands and that burns if you bite into it too fast.

black sesame hotteok
black sesame hotteok
black sesame hotteok

I decided to give a try at making hotteok myself. As I tend to do when I make something new, I consulted a variety of recipes – from Allrecipes, Kimchimari, Maangchi and Korean Bapsang. Generally I found that the flour to water ratio was typically 2:1 by volume (the recipes I saw ranged from 2:0.75 to 2:1.25). Some recipes used milk, and some used water – as I was indecisive I used half and half. The proportion of glutinous rice flour varied more, from none to 1/5 to 1/2 of the the total flour, so I used a vague average of 1/4 glutinous rice flour.

I read that while brown sugar, walnut and cinnamon is the classic filling, there’s a growing wealth of creative versions using other sweet or savoury fillings. With that in mind, I tried a black sesame and brown sugar fillling, which produces a tarry toasted caramel and a flavour remniscent of black sesame tang yuan.

These were quite fun to make and very satisfying. I can’t get them nearly as thin, even, and perfectly filled as Hodo Kwaja so I can’t wait to go back. However, that smell of cooking yeast dough and melting brown sugar that fills the kitchen is nearly the same.

black sesame hotteok

chestnut & black sesame hotteok

  • Servings: 8 11cm (4.5 inch) hotteok
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Based on an amalgamation of Allrecipes, Kimchimari, Maangchi and Korean Bapsang. I made half black sesame and half classic but feel free to double one of the filling recipes and do all one kind.

dough

  • 195g all purpose flour (1 1/2 c + 1 tbsp)
  • 56g glutinous rice flour (1/2 c)
  • 2 tsp instant yeast
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 120g cold milk (1/2c)
  • 120g boiling water (1/2c)
  • 1 tbsp oil

classic filling (for 4 hotteok)

  • 1/4 c brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • about 2 tbsp finely chopped walnuts

black sesame filling (for 4 hotteok)

  • 1/4 c brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp ground black sesame seeds

To make the dough, stir together the flours, salt, sugar and yeast. Stir together the boiling water and cold milk (this will make for a nice warm mixture) and the oil. Add to the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until a very sticky dough is formed. Cover with a damp towel and set aside to rise for an hour or so, or until doubled.

Make each filling by stirring together the ingredients.

Lightly grease your hand and work surface as you work with the dough. Divide dough into eight pieces. Flatten the dough into a large round in your palm. Top with 1/4 (about 1 1/2 tbsp) filling and pinch the dough to seal around the filling. Place on a tray lined with parchment and repeat until all the pancakes are filled. At the moment they’ll resemble little buns. Cover with a damp kitchen towel to keep from drying out.

Heat a pan over medium, or a bit on the medium-high side. Brush with oil. Place one of the pieces of dough seam side down on the pan. Brush a large flat spatula with oil and use it to press the dough into a flat pancake. Keep the pressure on the pancake for 30 seconds, then remove the spatula.

Let cook until the bottom is golden and the pancake is slightly puffed. Flip over and cook on the other side until golden as well.

The hotteok are best eaten warm – if they’re not fresh from the pan, rewarm them in the microwave to remelt the filling.

Update notes: Updated Feb 2022.

black sesame hotteok

rosemary honey panna cotta with grapefruit jelly

rosemary honey & grapefruit panna cottarosemary honey & grapefruit panna cotta

This is day 3 of a series celebrating local Toronto businesses!  Recent events have put many local businesses in a difficult position and unfortunately, it’s not clear when this situation will come to an end. For ten days I’ll be posting recipes inspired by some of my favourite local businesses as my own way of celebrating what they bring to our communities. While we may not be able to visit our local bakeries, cafes and restaurants right now, this is a way of keeping them in mind, and a reminder to support them again once there is a chance.

I’ll be honest: L’arc en Ciel is pretty much the model of my (utterly) fantasy bakery business I mull over in the back of my mind some days – there’s a day-to-day base of gelato (though in my imagined bakery it’s ice cream), with some supplementary, seasonal and creative baked goods. They are a relatively new Toronto bakery, having opened over the summer. They did temporarily closed before we could try much, but the selection of tarts, gelato cakes, and pastries in the display case are absolutely up my alley in what I would like to try (and try to bake).

Back in late summer I had tried some of their gelato with a friend. This is based on the wonderful combination of gelato and sorbet flavours I had (which was also featured in one of the bakery’s gelato cakes) – a creamy savoury-sweet honey rosemary gelato and a biting acerbic grapefruit sorbet. I’ve replicated the flavours and creamy/bitter contrast here, in a panna cotta infused with rosemary and honey, and a tart grapefruit jelly.

Continue reading “rosemary honey panna cotta with grapefruit jelly”

toasted sugar pavlova with persimmons & figs

persimmon & fig toasted sugar pavlova

In general, I’m a bit off pavlovas. I love the assortment of textures, particularly how the meringue already comes with two inherently built in, but they’re usually a bit too sweet for my liking.

Thus my pavlova making has also come with an inbuilt quest to find ways to reduce the sweetness – previously I’ve paired the meringue with tart fruit as well as reduced the sugar in the meringue. (Edit: and I have also come to realize that maybe the texture trade-offs of a low sugar pavlova are not possibly worth it…) Next up on my list was trying to use toasted sugar, a technique courtesy of Stella Parks whereby a slow bake in the oven kicks off sugar breakdown (i.e. caramelization!), all while retaining its granular consistency. In this way the sugar takes on a caramelized flavour with the additional benefit of slightly subduing its sweetness.

Despite that pavlova is at over half sugar, I was still taken aback by how flavourful the substitution of toasted sugar made the meringue. It tastes like a toasted marshmallow, but completely through and through – not just around the charred, bubbly edges with a molten centre threatening to slip off your skewer (I am not good at toasting marshmallows over fire). I finished by covering the meringue in unsweetened browned butter cream with a bit of dark rum (would of course still be lovely with plain cream!) and autumn fruits that play nicely off of creamy toasted flavours, figs and persimmons.

persimmon & fig toasted sugar pavlova
persimmon & fig toasted sugar pavlova
persimmon & fig toasted sugar pavlova

Okay so sugar and pavlova…

The typical pavlova ratio I’ve seen is about 50g (1/4 cup) of sugar per 30g egg white. In previous pavlovas, I’ve used a reduced the ratio of sugar to egg white of 1:1 by weight. I’ve noticed that the meringue still whips up silky and tall and very stable, especially with a good pinch of cream of tartar – it’s perfectly fine even when I spent a good 5-10 minutes messing with the shape. However, when baked, this lower sugar ratio tends to result in a softer exterior which does crisp and a bit of a gumminess to the meringue. If you don’t mind the trade-offs, go for it! Otherwise, unfortunately there is a reason for the amount of sugar in pavlova.

But a good pavlova gives you all the textures: a slightly crisp meringue crust, soft marshmallowy innards, whipped cream and fruit. It’s still quite sweet of course, but using toasted sugar makes a meringue as far from bland as I could imagine, balanced with unsweetened cream and fruit.

persimmon & fig toasted sugar pavlova
persimmon & fig toasted sugar pavlova

Despite the sweetness, I still love pavlova for its drama, wildly varying textures, and prominent featuring of fruit – and having an extra sweet dessert every so often can be fun as well! However, there are definitely ways to cut down on the sweetness.

Tips for making a less sweet pavlova:

  • If you don’t mind some trade-offs in term of texture, try to reduce the sugar to egg white ratio to 1:1 by weight and add a pinch of cream of tartar for extra stability (you can reduce this further, but the gumminess adds up… if you have pavlova texture standards, don’t try it!)
  • Use toasted sugar in place of regular granulated sugar – even if you don’t want a less sweet pavlova, but just want a toasted-marshmallow-caramelized-sugary-flavoured pavlova, I would try this!
  • Use unsweetened whipped cream on top, and stir in a bit of rum (or other hard liqueur) or yoghurt for a bit of bite
  • Choose a tart fruit; previously I’ve used fresh currants and rhubarb, but other options could include pomegranate seeds or grapefruit
  • Shape the pavlova wider and flatter – this way, you’ll have less meringue in each bite, and thus more balance between the sweet meringue and the fruit and cream on top

But, one caveat about the toasted sugar pavlova – I wonder if it doesn’t hold it’s structure as well? I will need to experiment more and get back to the blog about it… But here is what I know so far: the first time I made this pavlova I didn’t have time to let it cool as slowly as I should have, so it shrivelled. I thought this was just because of my impatience, but I’ve since remade the pavlova and let it pavlova cool overnight in the oven… and it still sunk! Either way it’s still quite all right as in the end it’s all a mess of cream and meringue and fruit anyways, but the presentation is not quite as neat. Is this something about the toasted sugar? Does it need a longer bake than usual? I find I can only stomach pavlova so many times in a year so this will take a while to figure out… (If you happen to try it out – seriously, the taste is worth it! – let me know what happens to you.)

persimmon & fig toasted sugar pavlova

toasted sugar pavlova with persimmons & figs

Makes 1 pavlova, enough to serve 6-8 people with massive sweet teeth, depending on how big you cut the portions. Toasted sugar from Stella Parks. Also, please read the caveat above as I’m still trying to figure that out!

toasted sugar pavlova

assembly

  • roughly 1/3 cup browned butter cream (or as much or as little as desired)
  • dark rum
  • 1-2 figs, cut into wedges
  • 1 fuyu persimmon, cut into wedges

To make the pavlova, preheat the oven to 250F. Line a baking trey with parchment paper.

Whisk together the sugar and cornstarch to break up the lumps of cornstarch. Place the egg whites in the bowl of standmixer. Whisk on medium-ish speed until frothy, then add the cream of tartar. Add the sugar in four additions, whisking between each. Once the sugar is incorporated and the egg whites are becoming fuller, increase the mixer speed to high, checking occasionally, until stiff peaks. Try not to overbeat so the meringue stays smooth!

Scrape the meringue onto the baking tray in one large pile. Use an offset spatula to shape it into a dome with a flat top. Finish by sweeping up the sides with the offset spatula to create a swirl along the edges.

Bake at 250F for an hour and a half – the pavlova will be dry on the outside and a light beige in colour. Turn off the oven and spen the oven door just a crack (use a wooden spoon handle) to let the pavlova cool very slowly – it’s best to leave yourself a few hours to let that happen.

To assemble, softly whip the browned butter cream. Once whipped, stir in a bit of dark rum and a pinch of salt. Spread over the top of the pavlova – how much cream you use will depend on the size of the top of the pavlova. Arrange the sliced figs and persimmon over top. Serve right away while the outside of the pavlova is still crisp.