Chef and Masterchef finalist Reynold Poernomo’s first experience with the wonderful world of desserts came when he was just four years old. And it was a case of mistaken identity. “I was at my auntie’s home and I had climbed up to her kitchen shelf where she stored a bunch of liqueurs and was drawn to one in particular in a dark bottle,” he remembers.
Thinking it was chocolate sauce, he poured it over a bowl of ice cream, but what was meant to be creamy chocolate liquid was in fact coffee liqueur. Instead of being sad, as most four-year-olds might be at this discovery, Poernomo was delighted. “You know, the balance of sweet and bitter with a hint of alcohol balanced out perfectly! It was delicious,” he laughs.
So what started as a mistake lead him to a career pursuing the delicate combinations and eccentricities of dessert making. “I was always intrigued with desserts as being a difficult, intimidating, and challenging field, where you need to be perfect and methodical all the time,” he explains. “I got into the world of desserts because I wanted to challenge myself, but now I want to challenge others to build their own dessert skills and not be so intimidated by it.”
The Masterchef finalist, who has just released his new book, “The Dessert Game”, sat down with T Australia to talk about the secret to creating stunning desserts, what most people get wrong when they try to make them, and why he loves his Boozy Berry Pavlova recipe so much.
What would you say is your biggest tip when it comes to mastering desserts?
“You really need to understand how ingredients react to each other, for example, how adding different sugars won’t only affect the taste but will also affect the texture, aesthetics and will make or break the recipe. You also need to find your own style, by learning from various techniques and applying it in your own way.”
What is a common mistake people make when they attempt desserts?
“A lot of people rush through it and have no patience for the process; it’s super important to build your foundation on how specific ingredients work. It’s not as quick [as rushing through it] but it’s very satisfying to see a recipe come out successful in the end.”
Why do you love the Boozy Berry Pavlova recipe?
“ This recipe comes from one of my fond memories of myself in my parent’s restaurant trying this dessert for the first time. I guess in a way it would be the first real Aussie dessert I tried. I love the texture of the soft marshmallowy centre and how versatile it can be. Not to mention easy!”
What would be your top tips for making sure this recipe works?
“I’d say, age your egg whites, meaning separate the whites from the yolk and store them in the fridge for at least 24hrs beforehand and then let them come up to room temperature before use. That makes a big difference.”
Reynold Poernomo Boozy Berry Pavlovas
Perfect for spring or summer, this is basically a classic pavlova… but even better! We’re boozin’ it up and bringing in some more floral notes to really round out the fragrant berries. These little touches are a beautiful upgrade of the classic.
5 large mint leaves
100g strawberries, quartered
50ml bourbon or whisky
70g soft brown sugar
Grated zest and juice of ½ lime
1. Roll the mint leaves and chi fonade (that’s a fancy way of saying finely chop the mint leaves). You want to chop them, not bruise them, so make sure your knife is really sharp.
2. Combine the berries, bourbon or whisky, brown sugar, lime zest, lime juice and mint in a bowl and lightly toss together. Refrigerate the mixture for 30–45 minutes to allow the berries to release their juices.
300ml thickened (whipping) cream
45g caster (superfine) sugar
30ml elderflower syrup
1. Combine the cream, sugar and elderflower syrup in a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk until stiff peaks form.
2. Transfer the elderflower chantilly to a piping bag (or store it in an airtight container in the fridge if you’re not using it straight away).
4 individual pavlovas
1. Fill the pavlovas with the elderflower chantilly and then spoon the macerated berries on top, letting them overflow, with the juices dripping down the sides.
2. Use a microplane to grate lime zest over the pavlovas. Serve immediately.
This recipe is from Reynold Poernomo’s new book “The Dessert Game”, published by Murdoch Books, $36.99, out this month.