Pavlova is an ethereally light dessert made of a marshmallowy meringue, whipped cream and typically a fresh fruit compote. It is named for famed Russian ballet dancer, Anna Pavlova, whose 1920s world tour so captivated a pastry chef in Australia, he created this dessert in her honor, or so the story goes. Others claim an earlier creation for Ms. Pavlova started in New Zealand. Then some interesting research arose about earlier versions in Germany, England, and the U.S.. Meringue-based desserts have been around for a long time, so claims to the desert under other names are also made. Regardless of “world’s first claim” the incredible lightness and beauty of this desert match so well with an elegant, seemingly lighter-than-air prima ballerina, it’s hard to argue for any other name.
We’ll stay out of the New Zealand / Australia / U.S. / Germany / England debate, our mouths are too full of meringue. However, it’s worth mentioning – while this makes beautiful pavlova meringue, it can also be used for Baked Alaska, lemon meringue pie, meringue drops with a chewy center, and even s’mores en masse – should such an occasion arise. Wishing for all of you to have such occasions should arise.
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
6 large egg whites
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/4 cup boiling water
2 teaspoons vanilla or 1 teaspoon almond extract
Preheat oven to 275
Have two baking trays ready, each covered with parchment paper
Sift or mix together sugar and cornstarch and set aside.
Add egg whites to mixer bowl, whisk on high for about 15 seconds until just frothy and opaque.
Turn off mixer, and add ⅓ of the sugar mix.
Turn mixer to high to fully incorporate sugar mix.
Keeping the mixer on high, add the next ⅓ sugar mixture, fully incorporate
Add the last ⅓ of sugar mixture
Add vinegar, continue mixing on high until stiff peaks form.
Add boiling water while continuing to mix on high.
Mixture will increase in volume, keep whisking another 2-3 minutes until fluffy, glossy and somewhat sturdy or stable.
The mixture will resemble marshmallow creme.
Add extract, mix just to incorporate.
With a pencil draw 6, 3-4 inch diameter circles on each parchment. Flip the parchment over so the pencil is touching the tray and does not come in contact with the meringue.
Using a pastry bag
For a decorated version, use a plain large nozzle or star shaped nozzle, pipe the shape of the circle and fill it in with concentric circles of piped meringue, Continue this process with additional layers until meringue is 2-3 inches high.
Using a large spoon
Gently form twelve, 3-4 inch diameter, 2-3 inch high meringues onto parchment. If using a spoon, you can round out and neaten the shape of the meringues as needed.
Use a 1 cup ice cream scoop
Shape generous scoops of meringue on parchment, making sure the bottom of the meringue is attached to the parchment, and no large holes exist. They should appear like little snowballs, slightly flattened at the bottom.
(You will only need one baking tray with parchment)
With a pencil draw a 12 inch circle on the parchment. Flip the parchment over so the pencil is touching the tray and does not come in contact with the meringue.
Using a pastry bag
Pipe around circle, and fill with concentric circles leaving no spaces. Continue this process with additional layers until all meringue is used.
Using a large spoon
Mound the meringue into the area of the circle you marked on the parchment. Build up the meringue creating a circle somewhat even in height.
Rest assured the perfect shaping of meringue will not not be noticed once covered in whipped cream and fruit for the pavlova.
Bake at 275 for 10 minutes.
Turn oven down to 200, continue baking for 50-60 minutes until crisp.
The result should be a white meringue with a crispy outer shell, and soft interior with no browning or coloring of the meringue.
Store any extra in an airtight container. Humidity and hot days will turn meringues into goo, tasty, but goo, so plan accordingly!
Pavlova is topped with whipped cream and fruit. We add vanilla to the whipped cream, but leave it unsweetened, as the meringue is very sweet.
As for fruit:
Go with any fruit in season.
Berry compote + fresh berries
Lemon curd + raspberries or blueberries
Stewed apples, brown sugar, and cinnamon
Red Grapefruit or orange segments in vanilla syrup
Passion fruit and kiwi–as an ode to New Zealand
Pears in ginger and cardamom syrup
Hazelnut spread and whole nuts
Any stone fruits: Nectarines, peaches, plums, cherries, apricots and crushed pistachios