Pavlova with fresh fruit

Is there a more perfect dessert than a pavlova? It’s light and airy but, when well executed, has a depth and complexity that snaps all your senses to attention. It’s perfect as the centerpiece for a brunch, or as the final note to any meal with friends or family.

One of my favorite things about the pavlova is that the ratio of realtive difficulty to perceived fanciness is quite high. It’s an impressive dish to serve to a table of people who think you’re basically a genius at first bite and yet it’s relatively easy to make.

A perfect pavlova will have a satisfying crunch from the meringue but a soft and springy interior. Topped with curd, cream and/or fruit, it creates a perfect fusion of textures and flavors.

You can mix up the fruit you choose to add for whatever looks ripest – there’s no wrong answer.

Optional – This recipe calls for egg whites – I took the yolks from them and made a quick homemade lime curd, which I then added in a thin layer while assembling. It added a little more bite and a fun twist. This recipe would be perfectly good without it, but traditional pavlovas have cream, fruit, curd, or any combination thereof on the top.

Ingredients –

Merengue –

4 large or 5 medium egg whites

2 teaspoons corn starch

1 teaspoon white vinegar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup granulated sugar

Pinch salt (fine, not rock)

Topping –

1 cup heavy whipping cream

2 tablespoons powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Pinch salt

1 1/2 to 2 cups fresh berries or fruit of your choice

Optional curd

Directions –

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Draw a 9″ circle in pencil on a piece of parchment paper (I just used a plate as a template). Flip the parchment paper over so the circle is on the bottom side of the paper and not on the bottom of your pavlova (ask me how I know).

When separating eggs, be very careful to make sure no yolk or other fat comes in contact with the whites. Ensure all beaters and bowls are clean to maximize egg white fluffiness.

Beat egg whites to stiff peaks.

Dust the top of the eggs with corn starch and gently fold in.

Drizzle vinegar and vanilla over the top and fold.

Using a sifter or other disbursement method (I put it on a plate and use the edge of the plate to slowly shake across the top), dust the top of the egg mixture with sugar and salt and fold in, spreading about 1 – 2 tablespoons at a time before stirring. The more slowly and carefully you add the sugar, the more your eggs will retain air bubbles. After all the sugar is added, your egg mixture should be shiny and glossy.

Spoon eggs onto parchment, using your trace as a guide. Eggs should be about 1″ high – when spreading try to make a bit of a lip around the rim of your pavlova.

Bake at 250 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Turn off oven, but DO NOT OPEN IT. If you allow the meringue to cool for at least an hour in the oven, it will emerge much less cracked on the edges than if you just pull it straight out.

The meringue can be made up to two days in advance of serving, just make sure to store it in an airtight setting (like a ziploc) because any humidity is the enemy of a crunchy meringue.

Whip cream, powdered sugar, vanilla and salt together until stiff.

Assemble – spread a thin layer of optional curd over the meringue (I used about half of my recipe), top with whipped cream and fruit. Serve immediately.

Accept praise and awe. Pretend like it’s impossible to make. Feign modesty while knowing on the inside you killed it in the dessert department.

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