In the kitchen

Pavlova, pavlova, and more pavlova

Pavlova, pavlova, pavlova || Rachel Loewens Fine Art

 

My family has a thing for meringues. My grandmother loved them and so we all think of her every time we enjoy a dessert that incorporates one. Through osmosis (or just watching Mary Berry on Great British Bakeoff's Masterclass, to be honest) my daughter has taken quite a fancy to them, too! She can recite most of this Pavlova recipe by heart and gets really excited when Aldi's has berries on sale because she knows that is the most likely time I will craft this lovely dessert!


I haven't felt quite as excited about the results because I seem to overcook my meringue even when I cut back the temperature. With a little extra time on my hands due to a break from schooling, I decided to finally figure out how to keep my meringue as white as they do on tv and hopefully not fall apart quite as much as they have before (a little breakage is normal). 

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 Pavlova, pavlova, and more pavlova || Rachel Loewens Fine Art

So, after my third attempt, I am finally happen with my recipe and cook times!

Rachel Loewens' Pavlova

Ingredients:
For the pavlova:
6 egg whites, room temperature
12oz sugar
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp cornflower

For the frosting:
20 oz heavy cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 oz powdered sugar, sifted



Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 300 F. Draw an 8": circle (I trace a plate) on parchment paper and place on a baking sheet.
2. Whisk egg whites in a clean mixing bowl until soft peaks form. Make sure there are no traces of oil on the bowl or the whites won't whip up as well. Add the sugar a tablespoon at a time and continue whisking on high speed until you have stiff peaks. In the meantime, combine the rice vinegar and cornflower in a cup. Once the whites are stiff and glossy, remove the bowl from the mixer and whisk in the vinegar/cornflower mixture by hand with the whisk attachment. 
3. Using a flexible spatula, spoon the meringue around the edge of the circle and then fill in the middle.
4. Decrease the temperature of the oven to 275 F and bake the pavlova for one hour. Resist the temptation to open the oven and check on it! After an hour, turn the oven off and let the pavlova sit there for a couple hours or overnight.
5. Before serving, whip the cream, vanilla extract, and powdered sugar in a mixer until stiff peaks form. Spoon the whipped cream onto the center of the pavlova and add the fruit. This can cause the center to sink a bit, but that does not take away from the overall appearance. Sift sugar on top to finish. 


 Pavlova, pavlova, and more pavlova || Rachel Loewens Fine Art

You can easily make a half-size Pavlova like the one I did above if you are expecting a smaller crowd, just decrease the baking time by 20 minutes or so but still leave it in the oven for a few hours to complete the drying out process. Enjoy!


 

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Commonplacing Cookbooks || a mini tutorial ||

When my husband and I were first married, I began collecting the recipes I used most often in a steno pad. Unbeknownst to me, I was commonplacing.

Commonplacing is the act of writing down favorite passages (or in my case recipes) in a book. The choices we make about what to enter in our book tell us a lot about who we were at the time of the entry. For instance, when I look back to the entries I made at the beginning of my Commonplace Cookbook, almost all of the dishes have meat or dairy in them while the latter sections do not. Beans and lentils are completely absent for the first quarter but then, over time, come to dominate the main dish entries. t

 Commonplacing Cookbooks || a mini tutorial || Rachel Loewens Fine Art

My little book is about full so as I get another steno pad ready to go, I thought I would right up a mini tutorial on how to start this practice.
 

 
 Commonplacing Cookbooks || a mini tutorial || Rachel Loewens Fine Art
 

First off, your notebook selection is key! This is a book that you will (hopefully) be writing in and using for years to come so make sure you select something with a line height you prefer and will lay flat when open. I love steno pads because of their top binding and sturdy cardboard back. (I take out the binding and flip the cover around because I don't usually like the color of the covers.)

 
 Commonplacing Cookbooks || a mini tutorial || Rachel Loewens Fine Art
 

Second, do yourself a favor and make a table of contents log.  I didn't do this for mine and have spent so much time flipping around for recipes that I knew were in there!
 



 Commonplacing Cookbooks || a mini tutorial || Rachel Loewens Fine Art

 

Third, start adding recipes! Food blogs and recipe books from the library are my two favorite sources.  Like most people, I tweak recipes to fit my family's preferences and to accommodate what I can readily find at the grocery store. By cooking something multiple times before entering it into my book, I can better ensure that I am recording a more accurate version  of my cooking method.

 

 

Cookbooks from the library go through an additional step because I only have them for a short while. I start by making a list of all the recipes I think I will actually cook in another steno pad. I used to just use scrap paper for this but switched to a notebook because sometimes I would lose my list! Also, unless we are on a school break there is no way I will have the time to try to cook each recipe I wrote down, so when I’m in a cooking lull I sometimes flip through this book to see what cookbooks really inspired me and will check them out again.

 Commonplacing Cookbooks || a mini tutorial || Rachel Loewens Fine Art

Hope this inspires you to start commonplacing your recipes too! Feel free to tag me on IG (@rachelloewen) with your books!


 
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Gingerbread house baking notes: 2017 Edition

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 Gingerbread house baking notes: 2017 Edition || Rachel Loewens Fine Art

I love making gingerbread houses! Each year I try to learn a new technique, and this year I made my own Necco wafers using this tutorial and this decorating tip from Wilton to cut out two different sizes. 

I had this plan to make multiple colors but quickly realized once I got going that it was best to just keep it simple for my first attempt. I did add a little more water that the recipe called for to give myself more leeway to work and was fine with the additional drying time. 

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 Home made Necco Wafers || Rachel Loewens

I really like the famous White House Gingerbread Recipe but found it a bit too dry for a Nebraska winter climate. Plus, I really didn't need the rise the baking soda gave it so here is my slightly modified version (one batch will make three of these A-frames):

Rachel Loewens's Version of white house gingerbread

  • 2 C granulated Sugar
  • 1 C plus 2 T brown sugar
  • 1 C solid shortening
  • 3 T molasses
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 ½ t salt
  • 3-4 T water
  • 6 C flour
  • 1 T ginger
  • 1 T cinnamon

1. Cream together shortening and sugars in a large stand mixer. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until light and fluffy. Add the molasses, salt, water, ginger, and cinnamon. Add the flour, one cup at a time. Mix until just incorporated. The dough will become very stiff, and will fill the entire bowl so don't attempt to double this recipe!

2. Roll dough to a  1/14” thickness between two sheets of cling film. Use a rolling pin with adjustable rings on the end to ensure even thickness. Trace around stencils (my preferred pattern here) with dull side of a knife and gently move pieces to parchment-lined cookie sheet. 

3. Bake at 375 degrees for between 12 and 15 minutes. For construction purposes, over-baked is better than under. 

 Rolling out gingerbread dough between cling film || Rachel Loewens
 Trimming the edges of the gingerbread pieces || Rachel Loewens Fine Art
 Gingerbread house pieces || Rachel Loewens

4. Remove pieces from oven  trim the ends using a serrated knife or pizza cutter (and feed to any hovering family members). This will ensure significantly better assembly. Let the cookie pieces cool completely before assembly. I prefer to wait overnight to allow them to fully dry out. Do not stack the elements higher than three piece once when cool and not at all while warm. 

5. Assemble the house using royal icing with Wilton Meringue Powder (tutorial here ).



Gingerbread house baking notes : 2017 edition || Rachel Loewens Fine Art
Gingerbread house baking notes || Rachel Loewens Fine Art
 

I've got a pretty good at assembling the houses, but one area where I still have loads of room for improvement is my decorative icing work. I would love to find a really great YouTube channel to follow so if you know of one, please leave me a note in the comments.

 

Happy Christmas Baking!

Gingerbread house baking notes: 2017 Edition || Rachel Loewens Fine Art

 
Don't miss out on my New Year, New You promotion with Young Living Essential Oils. Click here to find out how you can encourage wellness and eliminate chemicals in your home and save $20. Now through January 15th!