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The Mushroom Pavlova
If I were on the Great British Bake-Off, this mushroom pavlova would be my showstopper. “Mushrooms don’t belong in pavlova,” Paul Hollywood would sneer. With a battle cry of “Paul, your time is up!”, Syabira and I would rush forward with her corn-cake knife and slice him to pieces, which we would then eat with dollops of mushroom whipped cream.
Luckily, I served this pavlova as the last course in the mushroom dinner-concert-event that Annie and I threw last weekend (Sunday’s newsletter will be all about it), where everybody understood that mushroom pavlova is a perfectly delightful and delicious end to an all-mushroom meal. It’s sweet, obviously, but has umami as well, and a saltiness from the potato chips that balances everything out.
I’ll warn you now that this whole recipe is unreasonable. There are many steps that take a long time, there are ingredients that are expensive or difficult to find, and what you end up producing is an extravagant dessert that only makes sense as part of an extravagant dinner party. Normally, I try to make my recipes 1) accessible and 2) healthy, but this is not those things. I decided to send this out to everyone for free because so many people asked me for it, but if you want to get Friday recipes on the regular, consider becoming a paid subscriber!
This pavlova is made up of many elements, so I’ve listed each of them as separate recipes. Many of them would be good for other uses — the shiitake crumbles come from my Shiitake Cookie recipe. The mushroom whipped cream would be great with a mug of hot chocolate or chaga. The mushroom caramel is a lot of fun, and I’ve had it drizzled over ice cream and apple crisp. However, if you really want to make the whole pavlova as I did, you’ll want to make 1x the mushroom meringue recipe, 2x the mushroom cream recipe, so that you can use half of it for 1x of the mushroom caramel (you don’t end up using all the caramel, but I find it hard to make less) and 1x the shiitake crumble recipe.
Yield: 1 big meringue, enough for ~8 people
4 egg whites (~130 grams)
215 grams superfine sugar*
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon mushroom garum
*I just put regular granulated sugar into my Vitamix and blend on high until it’s fine
Preheat oven to 190°F.
Turn a 9” cake pan upside down on a piece of parchment paper and use it to trace a circle. Flip the parchment upside down and use it to line a half baking sheet.
Add the egg whites to an electric mixer with the whisk attachment and begin whisking on low. Turn it up to medium and whisk to stiff peaks.
Stream in the sugar. Turn up the mixer to medium high and let it run for another ~10 minutes until the mixture is shiny and completely stiff. If you turned the bowl upside down, nothing would fall out.
Add the cornstarch, white wine vinegar, and mushroom garum and whip everything together.
With a rubber spatula, dump the mixture out onto the parchment-lined baking sheet. Swirl it out to the edges of the circle, covering the circle and making a slight bowl-like indentation out of the center. All the swirls will stay just as you leave them, so try to make them pretty.
Bake in the oven for 2.5 hours. When you touch the surface, it shouldn’t be sticky at all. Turn off the heat and let it cool completely in the oven. If you’re storing it more than a few hours after that, or are in a humid place, wrap the meringue completely in plastic. I also add a silica gel dessicant package, which I take out of Japanese snack packages.
Hopefully you are able to remove the meringue from the parchment before serving, but if you can’t, maybe no one will notice anyway.
Make 2x this recipe if you are also making the mushroom caramel sauce below.
You can make this mushroom cream (and the subsequent caramel) vegan by using 1 well-combined can of coconut milk instead of the heavy cream. However, it won’t whip up the same way, so I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re making whipped cream for the pavlova.
250 grams fresh shiitake mushroom caps, sliced
Glug of neutral oil
Pinch of salt
10 grams dried porcini
1 pint heavy cream
Heat a cast-iron pan over medium heat with a glug of oil. Add the shiitake slices, let them sit until they begin to brown, then move them around the pan. Add a pinch of salt and cook off all the water that comes out of the mushrooms, which could take ~5-15 minutes depending on the size of your pan and how dry the mushrooms are.
Add the dried porcini and the cream or coconut milk and bring it just to a simmer. Remove from heat.
Store the cream and mushrooms in a sealed container in the fridge overnight. The next day, strain the mushrooms out of the cream.
Whip the strained cream by hand or with an electric mixer, until light and fluffy. Serve the same day you whip it.
Mushroom Caramel Sauce
This recipe makes at least twice as much caramel sauce as you should probably use for the pavlova, but I find it hard to make in smaller batches. There’s plenty you can eat it with anyway, from ice cream to apple slices. You can also keep cooking longer to reduce it more, and end up with caramel candies instead of sauce.
100 grams sugar
40 grams corn syrup
130 ml water
100 grams mushroom cream (recipe above)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon mushroom garum
1 teaspoon brown rice vinegar
A couple drops (<1/8 teaspoon) liquid smoke
Combine everything in a saucepan. Heat to just-simmering over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally for 40-60 minutes, or until you can lift a spoon out of the mixture and it will drizzle down in a single thread rather than dropping in individual drips.
If the caramel is too thick after it cools, you can always mix a little hot water in to loosen it up.
Caramelized Shiitake Crumble
~8 large shiitake mushrooms (150 grams), cleaned and stems removed
1 tablespoon neutral oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons sugar
If the mushrooms are large, cut the caps in half or into thirds, then slice thinly so that you have a bunch of small pieces.
Heat a large cast-iron pan or nonstick pan with 1 tablespoon oil and then add the mushroom pieces. Let them sear on the bottom till brown, then move around and keep cooking until all the pieces are soft. Add the salt and cook off the water released by the mushrooms. Add the sugar, which will quickly dissolve and then stir continuously until all the pieces are lightly browned. The idea is to cook as much water out of them as you can without burning them. Remove to a plate or sheet tray to cool.
The Whole Pavlova
1x recipe mushroom meringue
1x recipe mushroom whipped cream
1 pint blackberries, halved
2 tablespoons black sesame
1x recipe shiitake crumbles
1 2-oz bag Plain Fox Family Potato Chips*
~1/4-1/2 x recipe mushroom caramel sauce (which would mean you made 2x mushroom cream originally)
*Yes, you must get these exact chips
Get the meringue off the parchment paper and onto a platter. Generously spoon whipped cream over the top. Spread blackberry halves evenly. Sprinkle black sesame and shiitake crumbles over top. Crush some of the potato chips and sprinkle on the top; leave others whole and put them all around the edges for scooping. Drizzle mushroom caramel thinly over everything — it’s sweet so try not to overdo it. Serve with a giant spoon for breaking into it.