Good morning to you! Take a moment and breathe deeply. I hope you’re in your comfy chair.
Enjoy the sounds of excited kids, perhaps the hissing of the tea kettle or distant bells on the street corner.
Smell the pine or the dinner cooking or the candles on the table.
This is a moment for peace and reflection.
It may become my one lasting tradition.
Although my family has grown through many stages and tried several holiday traditions, I have to admit none of them really stuck. We used to make a family photo card every November, but no one will sit for it now. Young children made paper countdown chains, teens did puzzles from an advent calendar, but now we are never all home at the same time for those 24 doors to be faithfully explored.
Perhaps it’s a good thing not to be too tied down to any one ‘necessary’ bit.
Flexibility is key. One year we chopped down a palm tree that had the audacity to grow where it was not wanted. That’s the tree we brought in and strung with lights.
When we moved, I brought along a Christmas tradition. Or so I thought.
For many years we’ve made cookies or truffles or cinnamon rolls or biscotti, wrapped them up and delivered them to our neighbors. Our old ‘hood was steady as a rock and our kids knew everybody.
As the kids grew, the tradition somehow morphed into me doing everything and then begging someone to help deliver the goods. They have better things to do than decorate cookies I guess.
All of our new neighbors are strangers and seem to be constantly moving themselves. I can’t decide if a plate of slightly crooked gingerbread men delivered by slightly surly teenagers will solidify a month-old relationship.
It may just make them reconsider their new location.
So maybe it’s time to re-think this tradition as well.
I can fuss and plan and stress and make huge kitchen messes all by myself.
Or, they should all be expecting wine-in-a-bag.
I will be choosing by the label design, how else?
One Christmas we hosted a wonderfully fun family from Australia. Among the many memories we made, a recipe for pavlova is one that stuck. Probably because I wrote it down.
Her measurements were metric and my kitchen was not.
The ingredients had to be interpreted. ‘Caster’ sugar is finely granulated, but we used what I had and all was well.
This lovely lady reached for my pint of buttermilk, thinking it was milk. I only just saved her cup of tea.
She was gracious enough to demonstrate her pavlova magic for me and with the leftover egg yolks, prepared a chocolate cake from scratch a couple of days later. No one bakes from a box except us Yanks. She used cocoa powder and the flavor was distinctly different. Her kids were in heaven, and so was I.
I had the cooking channel right here in my kitchen! Woot!
Don’t let the recipe worry you. I made it successfully for a couple of Christmases thereafter and it’s a nice change of pace, especially if you top it with fresh fruit or perhaps crushed candy canes.
- Separate 4 room temp eggs (they should sit out for at least 20 minutes first); save the yolks for another recipe.
- Beat the whites and a pinch of salt until they won’t slip in the bowl when it’s tipped sideways. (Use a glass or metal bowl. Make sure your bowl and mixer were dry.)
- Gradually beat in 2 cups of white granulated sugar until it’s stiff and glossy. This will take forever. (Because the sugar must melt a bit at a time. If a pinch feels grainy between your fingers, you’re adding too fast. If you over beat it, it starts to separate or curdle; start over.)
- Last, beat in 1 tsp each of: cornstarch, baking powder, vanilla, and white vinegar.
- Lay a sheet of foil on a cookie sheet. Parchment paper works. No rim on your pan.
- Gently spread your egg glop onto the center of this foil, spreading into a 10” roundish cake shape. (You could use a plate to mark a guide first if you like. But messy is also pretty. And a gentle hollow in the center will hold fruit nicely.)
- Pop it into a pre-heated 300 degree oven, and then immediately reduce the temp to 250 degrees.
- Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes, then turn off the oven and leave it in there to cool and dry out. No drafts allowed. (A challenge on rainy days. Better during santa anas.)
- When ready to serve, beat 2 cups heavy whipping cream with a pinch of powdered sugar and a drop of vanilla until stiff. Spread it onto a completely cooled pavlova and top with fruit, etc.
- Refrigerate leftovers.
- If, by chance, your pavlova is cracked or tanned or weeps or acquires other beauty marks, eat it all the same! You could switch up this recipe into a lot of flavor variations. Have fun!