There are two kinds of people in this world:
Those who read their horoscopes, and those who do not.
Also, those who like chocolate and those who do not.
I am the person who likes chocolate and reads my horoscope. I take pleasure in reading my horoscope each day (almost nearly as much as I take pleasure in eating chocolate) and although I may not always believe or agree with what it says, a part of me takes comfort in allowing my life to perhaps become momentarily dictated by the stars and galaxy because then I am able to blame some of my flaws on the rotation of the sun or the phase of the moon. But I also leave my mind open enough for my horoscope to make mistakes on explaining my current predicaments or love affairs because I doubt all the Pisces in the world could have a bad day or else there’d be some kind of catastrophic upheaval.
Although reading my horoscope may be a guilty pleasure of mine, I don’t treat it like some higher power and let it rule my life because I disagree with allowing quotes (especially single sentenced ones) clarify my daily existence. I think that life is way too complex and intricate to be bundled into a single sentence therefore if you’re going to tell me that “everything happens for a reason” I better be unexpectedly becoming bestowed with the kitchen of my dreams fully furnished in which case I would not question but thoroughly embrace.
With all that being said, I will now allow myself to admit to one tiny single sentence quote that I have allowed to trickle into my life. Where else did you think I was going with that huge explanation?
“Life is all about the little things”. I wish I could be constituting life with a less cliche single sentence quote but I actually do believe life is all about the little things. If it wasn’t for the presence of the little things, we’d allow the bigger things to become even larger than they may already be and that could be destructive. It’s all about balance.
For instance, the other day I spent a great portion of my afternoon creating a dessert that I was so positive would hit the headlines in my life. I imagined its chocolate beauty bursting my senses, creating a stream of charisma to anyone who tasted its glory, but it ended up being one of the worst things I had ever baked. It took me a solid 48 hours to finally walk the disaster off. During that depressing 48 hours at one point I found myself flipping aimlessly through my current issue of my Food & Wine magazine perhaps hoping I’d be re-inspired to face my kitchen and make up for my disaster when I stumbled across an article about a beautiful painting that had inspired a pastry chef into making a particular dish. It made me stop and question where my inspiration to cook and bake comes from.
I think its important and healthy to question why we do the things that we do. Questioning our actions isn’t to discourage or doubt ourselves but to connect back to ourselves and stay in touch with our passions and goals. It shows us where our inspiration comes from and it is through this inspiration that I believe our dreams are obtained or even just simply realized. It became apparent something as small as a painting inspired this pastry chef and I found it so lovely that I suddenly needed to create it.
So, today I tentatively approached my oven again and put my whole heart into creating these delicate airy pavlovas. I felt like I owed these little meringue treats to my kitchen as an apology for all the darkness I had let filter through its cupboards and tiles over my previous baking disappointment. It was a peace offering. These pavlovas are the welcoming dessert of a changing season, the peace offering to my kitchen, the little morsels that mended my battered baking ego. With that being said, I now prove to you that it is perfectly acceptable to allow that cliche quote to dictate your life a little smidgen of a bit.
Nectarine Pavlova with Lavender Chamomile Pastry Cream
Adapted from Caitlin Freeman in Food & Wine Magazine
4 large egg whites at room temperature
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 cup + 1 tbs superfine sugar
1/2 cup sifted confectioners sugar
To make meringues:
Preheat oven to 250 degrees and line two baking sheet pans with parchment paper. Use lower and middle racks in oven.
Beat egg whites and cream of tartar in a stand up mixer bowl until soft peaks form. Slowly add the 1/2 cup of superfine sugar and beat at high speed until glossy and thicker peaks form. In a small bowl mix the sifted confectioner sugar and the additional 1 tbs of superfine sugar. Using a spatula, in 3 additions fold the sugars into the peaked egg white and sugar mixture.
Spoon 1/3 – 1/2 cup sized mounds of the mixture onto the prepared sheet pans. Using a spoon or spatula create the mounds into 4 inch rounds and then create a small well in the center to make room for pastry cream to be added later. Put in oven and immediately turn oven down to 200 degrees and bake for about 2 hours. Halfway through baking process rotate sheet pans to ensure even cooking.
1 cup + 2 tbs milk
1 chamomile lavender tea bag
1/4 granulated sugar
2 tbs cornstarch
2 tbs unsalted butter
3 nectarines, thinly sliced
To make filling:
While the meringues bake, prepare filling. Start by heating milk in a saucepan until just beginning to bubble on the edges. Steep the teabag in this heated milk for about 10 minutes. Squeeze teabag before taking it out to get all the fantastic flavorings out.
Whisk the egg with the granulated sugar and cornstarch. Slowly whisk in the warm milk and put on stove top to medium heat. Constantly whisking, the mixture will turn into a thickened cream. Once it thickens, remove from heat and add butter and mix until melted. Put cream into a heat proof bowl and press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pastry cream and let cool completely in refrigerator.
When the meringues and pastry cream are completely cool and you’ve sliced your nectarines, put the pastry cream into a pastry bag and pipe it in the center of the meringue shells. Lay sliced nectarine in the cream in any desired patter you prefer.
Enjoy immediately and thoroughly. Feel inspired!