Pavlova: Week 61

“What’s the difference between castor sugar and white sugar?”

I consulted locals in the supermarket and solicited advice from the hostel manager. Although I had not tasted, let alone seen a Pavlova, I felt that the Kiwi-as meringue-like dessert was in capable hands.

“The secret is to beat it for fifteen minutes.”

Soon after I laid out my ingredients I whipped them into a stiff foamy batter and dropped it on a baking sheet. It looked like a bubble bath cloud until I sculpted and smoothed the sides with a spoon. After only twenty minutes my Pavlova was ready for the oven.

Two hours after it went in I was persuaded to peek at my creation. I could see nothing through the opaque oven window so I lowered the door. Initially the oven appeared empty until my eyes adjusted and I discovered that my cake was merely being camouflaged. My foamy construction had collapsed into a bleak charcoal black ruin.

Due to a misreading of my own handwriting, I had set the temperature thirty degrees too high. Although my first ever Pavlova was dismal, I gave the recipe another go. The second was less burnt but just as flat and the third faithfully followed suit.

It was midnight and I was nowhere close to a golden crispy shell and marshmallow-y soft interior. At work my boss assured me that my failure stemmed from my nationality. In his eyes a good Pavlova automatically grants New Zealand citizenship. Sure I can make Hokey Pokey and kiwifruit jam like the best of them, but I just don’t think I am ready yet to take that kind of immigration test.

How to (maybe) make Pavlova:

(From the complete Edmonds Sure to Rise Recipe Book)

  • 3 egg whites
  • 3 Tbsp cold water
  • 1 cup castor sugar
  • 1 Tsp vinegar
  • 1 Tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 Tsp corn flour
  1. Preheat oven to 150˚C or 300˚F
  2. Beat egg whites till stiff, add cold water and beat again.
  3. Add castor sugar very gradually while still beating (should beat for a total of 15 min).
  4. Slow beater to add vinegar, vanilla, and corn flour.
  5. Place on baking paper and bake for 45 minutes. Leave it in the oven to cool, do not open the oven!
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Hokey Pokey: Week 59

It was my third week in Te Puke and I was drawing blanks. What should I do that I hadn’t done before…. I could use a backpack vacuum for the first time. Or wash my car. Maybe try a new section of the kiwifruit factory line… I have never graded kiwifruit, but I heard it makes people dizzy and sleepy. Then it hit me- if I’m in New Zealand, I should try to make as many local dishes as possible.

Recalling my disastrous foray into Korean cuisine, I picked an easy recipe to start. Hokey pokey is a light, crisp and sugary candy with only three ingredients: sugar, golden syrup and baking soda. I dissolved the sugar into the golden syrup and stirred my sweet cauldron for five minutes

After removing the pan from the burner I added baking soda and the reaction was instantaneous. The dark sugary liquid exploded in size, taking on a golden foamy texture. When the mixture stopped growing I slathered it onto a pan like a coating of fried chicken insulation.

“Is there any way to…”

“Make it pretty?” I finished a curious onlooker’s thought. “Probably, but I don’t know how.” Sure it was a little ugly, but once I sprinkled it over vanilla ice cream it was a sweet success. While it is harder to do something new in a small town, the challenge is rewarding and sometimes even delicious.

How to make Hokey Pokey:

(From the complete Edmonds Sure to Rise Recipe Book)

  • 5 tablespoons white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

1.)    Bring sugar & golden syrup to a boil, slowly stirring all the time.

2.)    Simmer gently for 4 minutes over a low heat, stir occasionally.

3.)    Remove from heat & add baking soda. Stir quickly till it froths and pour into a greased pan. Let it cool at room temperature.

4.)    Break it up when cold & store in air tight jars.

Mul Gimchi: Week 40

Mul gimchi has a delicate and refreshing flavor with just a touch of sweet ginger that is balanced by a slightly spicy finish. It has become one of my favorite side dishes and after receiving a container of homemade mul gimchi from my coworker, I realized it was possible to make such a delicious thing at home. A few days later Barret and I had the translated recipe and we were ready to leap into the annals of Korean cuisine.

The first hour was spent mincing all the ingredients while the baby radish leaves wilted under a coating of sea salt and the glutinous rice powder dissolved into a pot of hot water. The operation was running smoothly and the time had come to mix all the ingredients together.

“Barret, I think the water needs to keep boiling.”

“But the directions say ‘cooled’ so we should turn it off.”

“Actually it says ‘cooled boiled’ so keep the heat on.”

“Exactly, boil then cool.”

“No, boil then simmer.”

“You aren’t following directions.”

“I don’t need too. This is like a giant bag of tea and that requires heat. Let’s add more water.”

“We added five cups already.”

“Yes, but I don’t think we are making enough.”

“This isn’t a good idea.”

“This is a great idea.”

The following day we set our full Tupperware container before a panel of judges. With a grimace our coworkers delivered the verdict- too much garlic, too much salt, too many hot peppers, too much water, not enough ginger and the radishes were too radish-y. Even though the mul gimchi was politely pushed back onto our desk, Barret remained undeterred. With the enthusiasm of a man missing all but three taste buds, he poured himself a large helping and happily proclaimed, “I can’t taste anything! Anybody else want seconds?”

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