is one of those bits of food magic that everyone should make once.
While it may look intimidating, at its heart it is as simple as
strawberry shortcake. You're not afraid to make strawberry shortcake,
are you? I didn't think so.
This combination of meringue, whipped cream and fruit is a classic dessert in Australia and New Zealand where it was created as a tribute to the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. (Imagine a ballerina in a white tutu floating across the stage.) There is a bit of a kerfluffle brewing at the moment over whether bragging rights for the pavlova belong to Australia or New Zealand, but truth be told, I don't care a bit.
Pavlovas combine some of my favorite things: the lightly crunchy exterior of the meringue that gives way to an almost marshmallow center, barely-sweetened whipped cream, and fresh berries. Sweet. Simple. Perfect.
And easier to make than you may think.
makes six individual meringues
3 egg whites, room temperature
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup superfine granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Making the meringues
Preheat oven to 200° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Combine the egg whites and pinch of salt in a mixing bowl; a copper bowl is best if you have it. Whisk by hand, or on lowest speed of mixer, for a minute to break up whites and make them a bit foamy. Continue to beat, increasing speed gradually until the whites are thick and start to soft peaks.
Sprinkle the sugar in slowly while continuing to beat the egg whites. After the sugar is mixed in, add the lemon juice and vanilla extract by slowly drizzling them in to the bowl. Whip until the whites form stiff, glossy peaks.
Drop heaping serving spoons of meringue onto the parchment-lines baking sheet, flattening each mound to form a slightly concave bowl for the berries and whipped cream.
Bake at 200° for about two hours, then turn off the heat and leave the meringues in the oven for another hour or two to finish drying. You can store these in an airtight container for a few days but I really recommend serving the day you bake them.
Whip heavy cream, without added sugar - the meringues are so sweet you really don't need any.
Place a meringue on a plate, pile with berries and whipped cream and serve immediately so they don't get soggy.
By making small meringues, you can let kids create their own Personal Pavlova by using their favorite fruit, more (or less) whipped cream, and so on.
How about you, what's your favorite way to serve Pavlovas? Are you a strawberry purist or a banana and kiwi loving experimentalist? Do you think the confection belongs to one country? Share your Pavlova tips and memories in comments.