Created in Australia as the culinary expression of the ethereal dancing of legendary Russian prima ballerina, Anna Pavlova, this light dessert is a favourite of Aussies, Kiwis and my fiancé! Delicate meringue shells filled with whipped cream and topped with seasonal fruit, this dessert is a fabulous finish to any summer time feast!
This recipe is taken from Baking Illustrated with some added helpful hints from our Aussie friend Joanne Hughes. Served traditionally, Pavlova is generally one large meringue, about the size of a 10 inch pizza, then topped with fresh fruit. However, I like making smaller, individual serving sizes, as they are easier to work with and you don’t run the risk of the meringue cracking and breaking when you are trying to serve it.
Traditional pavlovas are topped with ripe tropical fruits (kiwi, mango, passion fruit) but any ripe fruit will do. We used slices of kiwi and red plum, raspberries, and blueberries. I like using the whipped cream as an anchor for the fresh fruit. If done correctly, the meringue should be slightly chewy at first bite, then melt away on your tongue.
4 large egg whites (or about a cup and 2 tbsp) at room temperature
¼ tsp cream of tartar
1 cup white sugar
¾ tsp vanilla extract
4 sliced kiwis (you can very the slices from full circles to half moons)
2 sliced red plums
½ pint blueberries
½ pint raspberries
1. For the meringues: Adjust the oven racks to the upper- and lower-middle positions and pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites at medium-low speed until they are opaque and frothy (about 30 secs). Add the cream of tartar, increase speed to medium-high, and watching carefully, beat the eggs whites until they are white, thick, voluminous and the consistency of shaving cream (about 90 secs). Slowly sprinkle in half of the sugar and then the vanilla, beat until incorporated (about 60 secs). Remove the bowl from the mixer and sprinkle in the remaining sugar and fold in just until incorporated.
3. Using a ¼ cup measuring cup and a soup spoon, place 6 heaping ¼ cup dollops of meringue about 1 inch apart of each of the baking sheets. Gently press the back of the soupspoon into the centre of the mounds to create hollows (be careful not to hollow out too much exposing the parchment paper).
4. Bake for 1 ½ hours, or until the merigues have a smooth, dry, firm exterior. Once you have checked the meringues for doneness, turn the oven off and leave the meringues in over overnight, yes, overnight. Once cool, store the meringues in an air tight container for up to 2 weeks.
5. For the fruit: Baking Illustrated suggests that you sweeten the fruit with sugar, and let sit for ½ hour at room temperature, but if your fruit is ripe enough, this should not be necessary.
6. For the whipped cream: A dessert topping such as Cool whip or similar item can be used in a pinch, but real whipping cream is best! Don’t forget to cool the bowl you are going to whip the cream in, and it helps to cool the beaters as well. I use 3 tbsps of sugar per 500ml of whipping cream for a little sweetness (Splenda works too). Beat the cream at a low speed until small bubbles begin to form, then increase to medium-high and beat until large peaks form. If you want to prepare the whipped cream ahead of time, it is handy to add Dr. Oetker’s stabilizer and it can be kept in the fridge for several hours.
7. To assemble: Place a meringue shell on a dessert plate. Top with ½ cup whipped cream (or to your liking), place fruit on top, being as creative as you like, anchoring it in the whipping cream. A nice touch, as pictured below, is to drizzle passion fruit syrup over the fruit, giving this dessert a true ‘down under’ zing!
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