Am I in the habit of making things that sound more complex than they actually are? Pfft yes. And with a name that sounds like it should belong in the royal courts of a Persian fairy tale, this recipe from Amber Rose is definitely a case in point.
Why Persia you ask? Well, the flavour combination of rosewater and pistachios was made famous by Persian Love Cake – an ancient tale goes that a woman, madly in love, made this cake to entice a Persian prince into falling for her. Pair those flavours with a dessert that is light, airy and sweet – like the nimble movements of the ballerina, Anna Pavlova, it was named after – and we have a recipe of magical proportions.
Rosewater is an ingredient as dreamy as it sounds. Simply add a dash into any plain batter and voila! Now it has the romantic allure of roses to further impress the crowd. But pay heed, despite it being called rose-water, this essence is quite potent – one teaspoon is enough in most cases. You don’t want to get too carried away and regret the outcome, thus needing a four hour recovery nap to sleep it off (which is definitely not what happened with a failed batch of rosewater meringue kisses made for my sister’s wedding cake).
What I like about this dessert, is that it is made perfect by its imperfections. As in, the less you try to smooth out the edges or make it even, the more effortless and elegant it appears. So truly, other than a watchful eye on the oven and some fresh rose petals (which are key), this recipe is as no-fuss as it gets. And you definitely don’t need to hunt down those bright pink pistachios, though they are a perfect prop for the pictures (do it for the insta).
By chance, I stumbled upon these red-dyed pistachios that used to be commonly available. Turns out, back when pistachios had to be imported from the Middle East, the shells were dyed to cover up stains due to their traditional harvesting methods. But according to The Kitchn, nowadays, most pistachios are grown and supplied from California where modern harvesting methods efficiently avoid the staining of shells. So there you have it, everything I do is an elaborate attempt to fool you into thinking I am some sort of baking wizard. And now you can fool others just as easily too!!
Rosewater Pistachio Pavlova
Recipe from Love, Bake, Nourish by Amber Rose (Very minimally adapted)
For the meringue:
2 tsp cornstarch
2 tsp white or cider vinegar
5 large egg whites
Pinch of salt
1 cup superfine sugar
1 tsp rosewater, or to taste
½ cup pistachios (plus extra to decorate), finely chopped
Rose petals to decorate
A handful of raspberries (or strawberries)
For the cream:
1 cup whipping cream
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp rosewater
Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and trace a 10 inch circle on it, flip it over so the tracing is facing the bottom.
In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and vinegar together until lump-free. In a clean, large bowl of a hand/stand mixer, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Still mixing, add in the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, alternating with tiny amounts of the vinegar mixture. Continue until there is none left and the meringue is smooth, glossy and thick. Gently fold in the pistachios and rosewater.
Spoon the mixture onto the circled parchment paper layer by layer to create an uneven and swirled texture. Keep the walls slightly higher than the center so it’s shaped like a nest. Place in the oven and immediately turn down the heat to 200°F. Bake for 2 hours until the outside is crispy and the bottom is firm. Turn off the oven and keep the door slightly ajar, allowing the meringue to cool inside.
When the meringue has cooled completely, prepare the cream. In the bowl of a mixer, whip together the cream and sugar until stiff peaks form. Fold in the rosewater. Spread into the well of the meringue with a spatula. Top it off by sprinkling on the remaining pistachios, raspberries and rose petals. Serve right away and store any remainders in the fridge.