This recipe came about when recently asked the question, "If you were a recipe what would you be?" I spent an entire week pondering the question. I wanted to create something that represented me - a mix; a fusion of several cultures over three continents and two hemispheres. In short, it had to be something part Japanese, part Australian, adopted Italian and definitely something sweet.
To be honest, I’m much more of a purist when it comes to recipes, so at first I wasn’t sure about creating a fusion recipe, I felt like I was concocting something only Morimoto could get away with, but after turning the kitchen into a science laboratory, I think I’ve found it, me in a recipe, and something I'd like to remembered for: Plum wine tiramisu masquerading as a pavlova. Or, what my husband has decided to call, tiramilova.
The pavlova part of the recipe forms the outside casing - this dessert is not only a national culinary icon of Australia and New Zealand, but is something that was present at practically every Christmas when I was a child. The idea of mixing the soft pavlova insides with the mascarpone comes from a beautiful gelato I tried for the first time one summer along the Tuscan coast – meringue gelato. It had little crunchy, melt-in-mouth pieces of meringue, which were just gorgeous.
The Japanese part of the recipe is a delicate touch of plum wine, umeshu, a liqueur made out of ume, a Japanese plum that looks like a small, unripe apricot. It is steeped in shochu and sugar and is quite often homemade. It has a sweet, perfumed, slightly sour taste and is delicious served on its own or with a bit of ice. It also makes a great summer cocktail when mixed with some green tea. A hint of mandarin rind always reminds me of trips to Japan too.
The adopted Italian part of the recipe is the inside - the tiramisu! Italy has been my adopted home for the past six years and the greatest influence on what I eat and cook at home. The tiramisu itself is a fusion recipe, originally being a variation on zuppa inglese, the classic English trifle. For this fact, I think it lends itself pretty well to other variations and recreations.
Be prepared for the incredible indulgent quality of this dessert – it is, after all, like eating two desserts at once! —Emiko
Preheat oven to 300 degrees Farenheit. Place egg whites in a clean (preferably glass or metal) bowl and beat until soft peaks form. Add sugar one spoonful at a time. Beat for about 5 minutes, until the mixture is glossy and firm.
Spoon the meringue onto a baking tray lined with baking paper and form 4 mini pavlovas, using a knife to flatten and smooth the cakes. Bake for about 25 minutes or until the sides of the pavlovas are crispy and firm to touch and ever so slightly coloured. Turn off the heat and let them sit in the oven until cool with the door slightly ajar.
For the tiramisu filling
Using half of the umeshu, dip the biscuits quickly into the wine (you don’t want to over-soak them) and put them to one side. In a separate bowl mix the mascarpone and orange rind.
When the pavolas are ready and completely cool, they should be firm and crispy on the outside, and soft, marshmallowy and fluffy on the inside. What you want to create here are pavlova casings, with the insides and bottom empty, but the top and sides perfectly intact. Very, very carefully pick them up one by one and scoop out the marshmallow-like insides with a spoon and add this to the mascarpone. Fold the meringue gently into the mascarpone until you get a smooth mixture, and add the rest of the umeshu, mixing until you get a creamy consistency.
Line a ramekin (just a bit smaller than your mini pavlovas) with plastic wrap, layer first a spoonful of the mascarpone mixture, then a layer of biscuits, which should now be soft enough to cut into pieces and shape perfectly to fill a layer. Add another layer of mascarpone and finish with a layer of biscuits, cut to size. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in the fridge. If you can do this the night before, better, if not, try to do let them sit for at least 1 hour. The longer you leave it, the more the biscuits will soften into a sponge-like texture and the delicate flavours will develop.
Turn the tiramisu out upside-down onto your serving plate, add more mascarpone mixture as needed, to round out the size of your tiramisu to fit, and very, very carefully place your pavlova casing on top. I would recommend making extra pavlovas for this, as you may find they can be extremely fragile and break very easily! Garnish with some cherry blossom flowers when in season.
The Australian-Japanese cookbook author has lived in Florence (where a visit to a cheese farm once inspired her to start a food blog) for over 10 years with her Tuscan sommelier husband and two kids. Her third cookbook, Tortellini at Midnight, is out now.