A couple of days ago, I made dessert to take to a dinner party at which one guest was on a gluten-free diet. The first suitable thing to pop into my mind was Pavlova - the delectable Australian dessert created in honor of Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova. Although Pavlova is Australia’s best-known dessert, it originated in New Zealand. In 1935, history was made when the chef of the sumptuous Esplanade Hotel in Fremantle, Western Australia, perfected the recipe. Pavlova holds great sentiment for me, because it was at that very same Esplanade Hotel - not in 1935, Dollinks - that I tasted this scrumptious confection for the first time. What makes Pavlova so delicious is that its meringue base is delicate but crisp - the perfect “nest” to top with lightly whipped cream, seasonal berries, and kiwi fruit.
Pavlova is normally served as one large fruit-filled dessert. Because our hosts were serving six of us, I made six individual portions by penciling six circles on a parchment-covered baking sheet. I made the circles a little larger than a normal serving size, so I could spread the mixture inside the lines to keep each perfectly shaped. Working with two soup spoons, I formed the raised edges of each delicate “nest” while gently making a “well” at the bottom. Although this is a fussy process, it takes less than a minute for each Pavlova.
If I were a perfectionist, I would have made the thin base first and fluted the raised edges with a pastry tube, but “good enough” is good enough for me! I like to cook, but value my time and don’t need to impress anyone when I know the whole thing will be filled with whipped cream and fruit!
Anna’s Pavlova Meringue:
4 large egg whites (4 fl. oz.)
1 cup super fine (“berry” or “castor” sugar) granulated sugar (see Note)
1 tsp. white vinegar
1-½ tsp. tapioca starch or cornstarch
On medium speed of electric mixer, beat chilled egg whites until they form soft peaks. Increase speed to high, adding sugar 1 tbsp. at a time and beating each addition well, until no graininess remains when you rub a little of the mixture between two fingers. Sprinkle vinegar over whites and dust with tapioca starch or cornstarch, folding into whites with a rubber spatula. Preheat oven to 250 deg. F.
Divide mixture equally among six penciled circles on parchment-covered baking sheet, forming meringue “nests” as described above. Bake meringues 1 hr., on center oven rack. Meringues should become a pale cream color, appearing dull rather than shiny. Turn oven off and leave inside to cool, with oven door slightly ajar. When meringues are completely cool, gently lift from parchment paper and assemble topping. Meringues can be made several days in advance, and stored in an airtight container in a cool place.
Note: No need to buy super fine sugar! Make your own by whirling regular granulated sugar in the blender.
Blenderize sugar to make it super fine
Trace circles on parchment-covered baking sheet
Gradually add sugar to whites
Beat to very stiff peaks
Mound inside circles
To Prepare the Topping:
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
Fresh seasonal fruit - kiwi, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, or any other fruit of your choice
1 c. heavy cream, whipped
1-½ tbsp. icing (confectioners or powdered) sugar
One - ⅓ oz. (10 g) package Dr. Oetker’s Whipping Cream Stabilizer (optional)
Sprinkle sugar over fruit, stirring gently just to combine. Set aside. With electric mixer set to high speed, whip cream until soft peaks form. Beat in sugar and Whipping Cream Stabilizer (see Note). Transfer meringues to serving plate or tray, mounding equal dollops of softly whipped cream into the center of each meringue. Gently heap fruit over whipped cream. Serve immediately. Makes 6 three-inch meringues.
Decadently delicious - and really quite simple!
Note: The addition of Whipping Cream Stabilizer allows you to prepare the cream a couple of hours in advance, with no danger that it will lose its shape by the time you’re ready to use it. I’m mentioning this product because many cooks don’t know it exists. It doesn’t affect the flavor of the whipping cream.