Christmas dessert. It can be a kind of mixed blessing, so to speak. Many diners approach the crowning event of Christmas dinner with some trepidation. With traditions like plum pudding (made with suet), mincemeat pie (once made with minced mutton parts) and fruitcake (often made with items that don’t resemble fruit at all), this hesitation is more than understandable.
The reasoning behind these ingredients was not pure torture, as some may think. It had a lot to do with using and preserving meats and other items at hand. After all, one never knew when the errant famine or pestilence might make an unwelcome appearance. Also, traditional folklore passed down through generations mandated the attendance of certain dishes.
Plum pudding in its original form would never make it to today’s supermarket. For starters, it contained no plums. Nuts and raisins were mixed in however. It is widely believed that “plum” refers to a dried grape or raisin as defined in the Oxford English Dictionary. Others maintain “plum” was the state of doneness desired when the plum pudding was steamed or boiled.
Mincemeat pie was utilized as a means to preserve meat without curing or smoking it. Various left over chopped meats would be combined with spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and clove. Citrus was normally added, along with beef suet and lots of brandy. Why so much flavoring? Just think how some old leftover meat might taste without it. It gives whole new meaning to the word “game”.
There are so many kinds of fruitcake, it is a wonder we have ended up with the artificially colored and flavored version often seen these days. Fruit based cakes were once a thing of beauty (and flavor) to behold around the holidays. Many cultures have their own version, from Stollen in Germany to Panettone in Italy. The better fruitcakes are sweet yeast dough, with lots of eggs, butter and sugar. The fruit is normally raisins or currants along with candied citrus fruit (no artificial colors, please). Some recipes contain alcohol like brandy, rum or even whisky. Take a bite of fruitcake and it’s either true love or you’ll wish you hadn’t. Be glad for those big cloth napkins during the holidays.
So, what’s left to make for Christmas dessert? How about a fluffy Pomegranate Orange Pavlova? (See recipe below.)
It was named for the Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova with a light meringue and sweet “marshmallow” center. Fruit crowns the top and makes for an elegant dessert, not too filling after a heavy holiday meal.
Whatever you decide, prepare it with love and lots of good cheer. At least toast to the fact that we no longer have to eat suet or green candied fruits anymore.
Christmas Pomegranate Orange Pavlova
This is a twist on the popular Australian dessert using seasonal fruit available during the holiday season. It is incredibly easy to make. Those who have eaten this say that its melt-in-your-mouth decadence is addictive!
5 egg whites (preferably room temperature)
1/8 tsp. table salt
4 oz. superfine sugar (you can make table sugar superfine by putting it in the processor for 30 seconds)
4 oz. sugar
1 tsp. white vinegar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. cornstarch
1 cup whipping cream (for the topping)
1 large naval orange, sectioned
seeds from one pomegranate
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Prepare a 12 x 17 inch sheet pan by greasing it and covering bottom with parchment paper.
Whip egg whites with salt until soft peaks form. Slowly add all the sugar (both types) while still whipping. Keep whipping and add vinegar and vanilla. Mixture should be very thick and glossy. Gently fold in the cornstarch.
Pile mixture onto sheet pan in a circular shape, indenting the middle somewhat for the whipped cream and fruit filling.
Turn down oven to 250 degrees F before placing the pavlova in the oven. Bake for 1 1/2 hours. Turn off oven. Allow to cool completely.
Whip cream to soft peaks. Pile into the center of the pavlova.
Top with orange sections and pomegranate seeds.
Serve immediately! This dessert cannot be stored once the cream and fruit is placed on it, as it will become soggy after a short period of time.