Friday, August 3, 2012
Named after the famed ballerina, Anna Pavlova, these puffy, light, and crunchy meringue shells filled with whipped cream and topped with fruit are ethereal. They are a perfect summer dessert when berries are available in abundance and a heavy dessert after dinner just isn't warranted. There is such a sensory experience going on when these are consumed. The crunch and marshmallow texture of the meringue combined the sweet and soft whipped cream topped with the tangy cool fruit. Quite remarkable! I chose to make small ones so the leftovers could be stored sans whipped cream and fruit. But wouldn't it be fun to have a big one at a dinner party with friends where everyone had their own fork and just dug in to a communal Pavlova? I need to have a summer dinner party soon.
Makes one 9" pavlova or 8 mini-pavlovas
For the meringue base:
4 egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon white vinegar
For the topping:
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups diced fresh fruit
Preheat the oven to 275°F with a rack in the lower third of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Trace a 9" circle on the parchment using a cake pan or dinner plate as a guide. (If making mini-pavlovas, use drinking glasses as guides.) Flip the parchment over. Mix the sugar and cornstarch together in a small bowl. Mix the vanilla and white vinegar together in a separate bowl.
Whip the Meringue. Make sure your mixing bowl and beaters are very clean with no residual fat or grease. Pour the egg whites in to the bowl and begin beating at low speed. Gradually increase the speed to medium.
When the egg whites have reached soft peak consistency and the beaters leave trails in the whipped whites, begin adding the sugar a few tablespoons at a time, waiting a few seconds between each addition. While doing this, gradually increase the speed so that you are at maximum speed once all the sugar has been added.
Continue whipping until the meringue holds stiff peaks. Stop the mixer and sprinkle the vanilla and vinegar over the meringue. Beat for another 20 seconds to fully mix.
Use a spatula to scrape all the meringue onto the parchment in the center of the circle. Working from the inside out, spread the meringue to fill the circle. Smooth the sides if desired or leave it in billowy lumps.
Put the meringue in the oven and immediately turn down the heat to 250°F. Make for 60-70 minutes for one large pavlova or 50-60 minutes for mini-pavlovas. The pavlovas are done when the outsides are dry to the touch, are very slightly browned, and sound hollow when tapped. It's fine if cracks form in the crust.
Turn the oven off, but leave the pavlova inside with the oven door ajar. Let sit until the pavlova is completely cooled, or overnight. At this point, the pavlova can be wrapped in plastic or sealed in an airtight container and kept for several days unless your house gets very humid (in which case, eat your pavlova right away!).