BuffaloSpree.com's Recipe of the week: Pavlova
Christa Glennie Seychew
The fresh berries that top this phenomenal pavlova may lead you to believe that it is best reserved for warmer weather, but the simplicity of this delicious dessert make it a great addition to your holiday festivities. And, since its base is made of meringue—a concoction created with egg whites—the very dry climate of our heated winter homes is conducive to the moisture sensitive process.
Pavlova was purportedly created in honor of famous Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova during a tour of Australia in the 1920s. New Zealanders also claim the invention of pavlova as their own, backed by the prima ballerina's biographer, who lays the recipe's provenance at the door of a hotel chef in Wellington, NZ.
But provenance is neither here nor there when it comes to flavor. At this time of year, pavlova is a lovely alternative to the heavy and rich desserts that otherwise accompany our holiday celebrations. Although light in calories and texture, pavlova has no shortage of flavor. A crispy outside, a subtly sweet and soft marshmallow-y inside—it is the combination of textures in the body of this dessert that make it truly spectacular.
In the picture above, pavlova is served with fresh raspberries and a drizzle of dark chocolate sauce, but your imagination is the limit. In Australia ii is most often served with whipped cream, kiwi, and passion fruit. If you wish to maintain a sense of seasonality, topping it with pomegranate pips (technique video here) and clementine supremes (technique video here) would be equally delicious.
Here is a great recipe from the Joy of Baking, a reliable source to say the least. I've added a few notes that will ease preparation if you have never made meringue before.
4 large room temperature egg whites
1 cup superfine sugar (caster sugar works well too, if you can find it in the British section of your supermarket)
1 tsp white vinegar
1/2 tbsp cornstarch
Topping: Fresh fruit, chocolate sauce, toasted nuts, whipped cream, etc.
Method: Preheat oven to 250 degrees F and place rack in center of oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and draw a 7” circle on the paper.
In the bowl of your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until they hold soft peaks. Start adding the superfine sugar, a tablespoon at a time, and continue to beat until the meringue holds very stiff peaks. (Test to see if the sugar is fully dissolved by rubbing a little of the meringue between your thumb and index finger. The meringue should feel smooth, not gritty. If it feels gritty the sugar has not fully dissolved so keep beating until it feels smooth between your fingers). Sprinkle the vinegar and cornstarch over the top of the meringue and, with a rubber spatula, fold in.
Gently spread the meringue inside the circle drawn on the parchment paper, smoothing the edges, making sure the edges of the meringue are slightly higher than the center. (You want a slight well in the center of the meringue to place the whipped cream and fruit.)
Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes or until the outside is dry and takes on a very pale cream color. Turn the oven off, leave the door slightly ajar, and let the meringue cool completely in the oven. (The outside of the meringue will feel firm to the touch, if gently pressed, but as it cools you will get a little cracking and you will see that the inside is soft and marshmallowy. Don’t worry if your meringue cracks and falls flat—it will be no less tasty and you can dress it up with toppings.)
The cooled meringue can be made and stored in a cool dry place, in an airtight container, for a few days.
Serves 6 to 8.