The best summer desserts are the ones that are easy to make, can be made ahead of time, and always get ooh’s and aah’s whenever they are served. Pavlova is all that and more. It is so versatile…think of it as a crisp little cloud filled with fruits, whipped cream, chocolate mousse, lemon curd, ice cream…the possibilities are endless.
The ingredient list for this luscious dessert is very short…basically egg whites and sugar…beaten to very stiff peaks. Early season local berries aren’t usually very sweet, but I was lucky enough to find some that were ripe and juicy and decided that small pavlovas were the way to show them off. The recipe I’m sharing is by INA GARTEN, but most of the recipes for meringue are basically the same. The sugar-egg white ratio is usually 1/4 cup sugar to 1 egg white so if you want to decrease or increase the recipes it’s easy to do.
If you haven’t made meringue before you are in for a treat. Meringue is simply a mixture of egg whites and sugar that are beaten together. When beaten, egg whites can expand to up to eight times their original volume. Sugar not only adds sweetness, it also stabilizes the egg whites by coating them with sugar so they can be beaten longer and don’t dry out as fast. Sugar also decreases the volume and lightness of the meringue, so it is important that the sugar be added gradually, and usually never before the egg whites have been whipped to at least four times their original volume. The amount of sugar and method used varies depending on what you want to do with the meringue. Less sugar creates a softer meringue for toppings on cakes or pies; more sugar creates a harder meringue used for piping into shapes. Many meringue recipes call for caster sugar which has granules much finer than ordinary sugar. If you want super fine sugar simply pulse regular sugar in a food processor for a few seconds. To be sure that the sugar has dissolved in the beaten egg whites rub a dab of whites between two fingers. If you feel granules, beat another minute or two until they dissolve.
This recipe makes one 9-10 inch meringue or six 4-1/2 inch individual ones. To make sure you end up with the size you want draw the desired size circle on a sheet of parchment paper with a pencil. Place the paper pencil side down on a baking sheet. Spoon the meringue inside the marked area and spread with a spatula or spoon to the desired size. Make a small depression in the centers. The meringues don’t increase in size as they bake…they dry out and become very crisp. The photo on the bottom left is unbaked meringues…the ones on the right are baked. They are baked in a warm oven… 180-degrees… so they are actually just drying out. If you want to get fancy you can pipe the meringue onto the parchment paper. Pastry bags and I don’t always get along so forming the shells with a spoon works for me.
Once you try this recipe you will see how easy Pavlova is to make and how much your family and friends enjoy it. I folded melted white chocolate into the whipped cream filling this time and it was delicious with those beautiful strawberries. Assemble the Pavlovas an hour or two before serving so the filling has a chance to soften the meringue just a little bit. Melt several tablespoons of homemade strawberry jam in the microwave for a few seconds and drizzled it over the berries if desired.
Meringue shells keep for several days in an airtight container. EATON MESS is another great dessert that uses the same ingredients as this Pavlova…it’s just assembled a little differently.
- 4 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
- Pinch kosher salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 4 ounces (90g) white chocolate
- 1-1/2 cups whipping cream
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees F.
- Place a sheet of parchment paper on a sheet pan. Draw a 9-inch circle on the paper, using a 9-inch plate as a guide, then turn the paper over so the circle is on the reverse side. (This way you won't get a pencil mark on the meringue.)
- Place the egg whites and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat the egg whites on high speed until firm, about 1 minute. With the mixer still on high, slowly add the sugar and beat until it makes firm, shiny peaks, about 2 minutes.
- Remove the bowl from the mixer, sift the cornstarch onto the beaten egg whites, add the vinegar and vanilla, and fold in lightly with a rubber spatula. Pile the meringue into the middle of the circle on the parchment paper and smooth it within the circle, making a rough disk. Bake for 1½ hours. Turn off the oven, keep the door closed, and allow the meringue to cool completely in the oven, about 1 hour. It will be crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.
- For the white chocolate cream, melt the chocolate in the microwave by heating in 10-second bursts until completely melted. Mix ½ cup of cream through the melted chocolate to form a soft ganache. Whip the remaining cream to soft peaks and fold through the white chocolate ganache. Store in the fridge until ready to serve.
- Just before serving, spread the cream over the top of the cooled pavlova and top with the strawberries. Sift over a little icing sugar and serve immediately.