It’s red, white and blue season right now. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the American flag seems to fly higher and more frequently than at any other time of the year.
The history behind the colors and designs of flags is fascinating. It was interesting for me to learn recently about the design of our current U.S. flag. There are 26 previous versions of the American flag, including the original star-less flag. And we all know the grade-school story of the stars-in-a-circle flag sewn by Betsy Ross (which, by the way, is more legend than fact).
I discovered that the current U.S. flag with 50 stars and 13 stripes was designed by a 17-year-old high school student named Robert G. Heft of Lancaster, Ohio back in 1958. At the time, Alaska and Hawaii were both being considered for admittance to the Union as the 49th and 50th states.
Teens of Canyon Lake, you will be interested to know that Heft created his 50 star flag for a school project (with no help from his mother, I will add) and received a grade of B minus from his teacher. After the Ohio teenager discussed the grade with his teacher, they jokingly agreed that if his flag was chosen by President Eisenhower, the teacher would reconsider his grade.
So, Heft, along with 1,500 other people, went on to submit his flag design to President Eisenhower for consideration as the new U.S. flag. I can only imagine his mother’s pride, and his teacher’s surprise, when Heft’s flag was chosen and adopted as the official U.S. flag by presidential proclamation in 1959.
Teens, you will also be interested to know his teacher changed his project grade to an A. And in 1960, the 19-year-old Heft traveled to Washington, D.C. to see the flag he designed fly over the U.S. Capitol. He was flanked on one side by his congressman and on the other side by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
With the 4th of July coming up, I couldn’t help but be inspired by this week’s recipe from the website Natasha’s Kitchen. Crisp on the outside, marshmallow-y on the inside, topped with real whipped cream and fruit in the colors of our flag, this light-as-air dessert will help you celebrate the red, white and blue season.
Red, White, and Blue Pavlovas
- 6 egg whites, room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups white sugar
- 2 tsp. corn starch
- 1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice
- 1/2 Tbsp. vanilla extract
- For Cream:
- 1½ cups Cold heavy whipping cream
- 2 Tbsp. white sugar
4 cups fresh fruit (blueberries, raspberries, sliced strawberries, blackberries, etc.)
Mint leaves for garnish, optional
Preheat the Oven to 225˚ F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a stand mixer or large bowl, beat 6 egg whites on high speed for one minute until soft peaks form. While mixer is running, gradually add 1 1/2 cups sugar, about 1/2 cup at a time, and beat for 10 minutes on high speed, or until stiff peaks form. The mixture will be smooth and glossy. Quickly and gently fold in lemon juice and vanilla extract with a spatula. Add corn starch and mix until well blended.
Place meringue into a piping bag with a star shaped tip and pipe 12 to 14 meringue onto the parchment paper. Alternately, if you don’t want to use a piping bag, you can mound meringue onto parchment with a spoon. Indent the center of each mound with a spoon to allow room for cream. Bake at 225˚ for 1 hour 15 min, then turn oven off. Do not open the oven door, let meringue dry in the off oven another 30 minutes. Outsides will be pale, dry and crisp while the insides will be marshmallow soft.
Gently move the pavlova with the parchment paper onto a wire rack and cool. Once cool, pavlova can be stored in an airtight container for three to five days at room temperature.
To assemble, beat cold whipping cream with 2 Tbsp. sugar in a cold mixing bowl for 2 minutes or until whipped and spreadable.
Pipe or mound frosting into the center of the pavlova and top with fresh fruit. Serve immediately. Yields 12 to 14 mini pavlovas.