While exploring options with meringue as part of my experimenting with the use of powdered egg whites (which I highly recommend), I ran across Pavlova. It harkened to an annual party a dessert-loving friend used to throw, and I felt it would be a fun one to try. What’s not to like about meringue, fruit, and whipped cream? It also tugged on my memory of a dessert at The Stagecoach Inn in Salado, Texas – something they called a Strawberry Kiss (this was in the 1960’s, so you know it made an impression) – a meringue shell with vanilla ice cream, topped by fresh strawberries. Yum. So, here we go.
Like so many food items, there are as many variations as there are cooks. Having looked at about 20 of them, I decided to stick with my basic meringue recipe, adding a pinch of salt and going with it. It’s the finishing that gives us the characteristic shape and presentation.
Whites of 3 large eggs, at room temperature
Rounded 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (see TIPS)
Separate one egg at a time into a small bowl, letting the white fall into the bowl and discarding the yolk (or better, cure them, like this). If there’s any trace of yolk in the white, discard the white (or save the whole egg for scrambled eggs the next day) and start over. If it’s yolk-free, transfer to a clean medium mixing bowl. Repeat with the remaining 2 eggs.
Add cream of tartar to the whites and beat with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Slowly add sugar, about 1 tablespoon at a time, until all the sugar has been added. Continue beating until the whites are stiff and glossy. Add vanilla and beat for 30 seconds more.
Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat to 200°F.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Place a small dot of the meringue under each corner of the paper to secure it to the pan. Fill a pastry/piping bag, fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip, with the meringue. Working with the bag perpendicular to the baking sheet, pipe the meringue into a large disk, doubling up on the outer edge to make somewhat of a bowl. For a more rustic and cloud-like look, spoon the meringue onto the parchment and shape it with a spatula.
Bake until dry and crisp throughout, about 1 1/2 hours. Turn the oven off and allow the meringue to cool in the oven – another hour or so – especially if the day is particularly humid.
Fill the ‘bowl’ with sweetened whipped cream and fresh berries; and maybe a garnish of fresh mint. You’re done!
Want something other than vanilla? Substitute other flavorings, but like cutting hair, start small, then increase the amount until it’s where you want it to be. Try for something complementary to the fruit you plan to use.
Freeze-dried fruits – strawberries, raspberries, etc. – make a great addition to the meringue, adding both color and flavor. Again, think of what complements the fruit. Raspberry meringue with fresh peaches in the whipped cream makes for a great Peach Melba take-off. Put the freeze-dried fruit in your food processor and pulse it until you have a fine powder. Use the powder judiciously,.
The day I made my first Pavlova I had seen and bought fresh cherries. As photographed, I put macerated cherries on the whipped cream and shaved some dark chocolate over it all. Nice!!!