Summer is the best.
I know I'm not the only person to think this way, but indulge me for a moment. I have so many wonderful memories that center around summers in Washington, where I grew up. Traveling across the state to visit my grandparents, running around in the sprinklers with my sister and going to summer camp on the lake for a week.
Summer in Washington is so beautiful, and I always tell people that the best time to visit is anytime between June and September. All the rain from the winter months dries up and leaves behind a lush green paradise. The air is clean and the flowers are blooming. It's perfect.
But I don't live in Washington anymore. I live in Los Angeles, where the summer heat comes and destroys everything that is good and wonderful. It's unbearably hot, especially in the valley, and if you're not fortunate enough to have A/C then you probably spend most of your time crying.
At least that's what it felt like at first. I moved to LA on the 3rd of July in 2014, and for the first week I was here I unknowingly had my central air set to pump out heat. I was SO HOT. I couldn't believe that people lived like this, and I remember falling asleep on my air mattress at night wondering if I'd made a horrible mistake coming to live here.
But eventually I figured it out, I got the air to work properly and my body slowly adjusted to the heat. I've grown to really love my life here. I have a cute little apartment, that I've finally taken the time to furnish, and I've even found the best way to enjoy the summer. Hint: it's eating. Isn't it always?
Have you seen those silver fruit carts in the city? They're full of fresh fruits and topped with a rainbow umbrella. For $5 dollars you can get a HUGE cup or bag of freshly cut fruit, topped with lime juice and chili powder or Tajin.At first I thought it was so weird, but one day a friend of mine convinced me to try it and now it's my obsession. It's sweet with a little kick, and so refreshing on a hot Los Angeles day. Ripe mangoes, juicy watermelons, sweet oranges, crunchy jicama and so many other delicious things. The lime juice brings out all the sweetness and tartness, and the Tajin is truly the most wonderful thing to ever exist.
So naturally I took that delicious burst of flavors and knew that I needed to put it into a dessert. I've been wanting to attempt a vegan friendly pavlova for awhile now, and chili powdered fruit seemed like the perfect pairing. Normally, a pavlova is made with egg whites, but to make my version I used aquafaba.
And then like any normal, well adjusted person, I spent 3 straight days trying to make it. It took 6 tries, countless cans of chickpeas and I even watched the first three Harry Potter movies. I took what I knew, that a pavlova is similar to a meringue, but a lot fluffier and softer. More like a marshmallow with a crunchy shell. I knew that traditionally something acidic (like cream of tartar or vinegar and cornstarch) is used to activate the egg whites and help them fluff up. So I tried variations of all of them. Some came out a flat mess, or crumbled upon impact, others weren't cooked long enough. It was so frustrating.
But finally I figured it out, a little extra cornstarch for added stabilization, and room temperature aquafaba, because chilled simply didn't expand like I needed it to. What I got was a deliciously light and elegantly delicate dessert. And it's even better once you top it with a coconut lime whipped cream and the fresh fruit coated in tajin.
My tajin obsession borders on dangerous. Seriously. I actually bring it with me when I go on the road for work. It's a chili powder, with lime and salt mixed in. It's perfect for fresh fruit, and I've also seen people rim their margaritas with it. I buy mine at grocery stores, normally in the fruit section, but you can also find it on amazon!
I've got a lot of fond memories from my summers back home in Washington, but I've also made some really great new memories in my new life here in Los Angeles. I finally know my way around, and I've met so many wonderful new people. I don't feel like I made mistake moving here, and sometimes I even feel like LA is more of a home than anywhere else.
And now I've got this horrible/magical memory of the time I spent 3 days trying to turn bean water into something beautiful. I gotta be real, I need some credit for that. I woke up at 7am for the last 3 days so I would have time to make two batches before the natural light in my apartment faded away.
I feel so accomplished now that I figured it out. I've also got so much fruit left and I'll be able to eat it for days!
This pavlova tastes like summer in LA to me, but I hope you can enjoy it from your home too. Happy summer, wherever you are!
Fruit Cart Pavlova
makes two 6 inch pavlova's or one 9 inch one
- 3/4 cups of aquafaba (from one can of beans, room temp)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 mango, cut into pieces
- 1 cup chopped watermelon
- 1/2 cup chopped pineapple
- 1/2 cup chopped jicama
- 1 cup chopped strawberries
- 1 Tablespoon lime juice (for the fruit)
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons Tajin fruit and snack seasoning
- coconut whipped cream ( I used a recipe from the Minimalist Baker, and added some lime juice to it)
Prepare two baking sheets by lining with parchment paper. Flip the paper over and use a pen to trace a plate or bowl onto it. Flip the paper back over and set the baking trays aside. Pre heat the oven to 300 degrees F.
In a clean mixing bowl, pour in the aquafaba and using a stand mixer beat with a balloon whisk until it is light and fluffy. The aquafaba should be four times bigger than when you started, and have a consistency similar to shaving cream. (This usually takes me about 10 minutes, and I gradually increase the speed of the mixer until it is as high as it can go.)
While it's mixing, in a separate bowl combine the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Then add it in to the completely foamy aquafaba. Do this by scooping one tablespoon at a time, with the whisk still on. Once it's all added in, continue mixing on high for another 10-15 minutes. It will be very familiar looking by now, with stiff and glossy peaks. You should be able to turn the bowl upside down without the meringue falling out.
Now it's time to add in the vinegar and vanilla, just enough to incorporate them with the meringue. Fell free to continue mixing as long as you'd like though, you can't over work aquafaba meringue like you can with egg whites.
Scoop the meringue out into the circles you've lined on your parchment paper. You can also use a piping bag with a star tip for this if you like to be fancy. The meringue should hold it's shape in the circles, and the outer rim should be slightly taller than the inside. This depression is where you'll be placing the topping once it's ready to assemble.
Place both baking sheets in the oven, and immediately turn the heat down to 250 degrees F. Now leave them alone for about 2 hours. I usually check mine around then, and then end up cooking for another 15-20 minutes. They should have a hard outer shell, and feel hollow once you knock your fist on them. Turn the oven off and Leave them in there with the door slightly open. Wait until it's completely cool before taking them out.
Prepare the fruit by combining all the ingredients together. Feel free to add more fruit, lemon, lime or Tajin to your liking. Assemble the pavlova by spreading a layer of whipped cream on the first meringue, and then stacking the second one on top. Then spread another layer of whipped cream and scoop the fruit on top. Serve immediately, once the fruit joins forces with the pavlova it starts to disintegrate, as you can see by the picture above. If I were making this for a party I would prepare the fruit and whipped cream and store in the fridge, I'd have the pavlova's in an airtight container and only take them out once it's time to assemble.
Pavlova recipe adapted from Ina Garten
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