After a long winter, where even Southern California has had its share of cold temperatures, it’s nice to transition to brighter, fresher, springtime recipes. Pavlova is a perfect example - light, airy, elegant – it’s a whimsical dessert that combines crisp meringue with a “marsmallow-y” center, lightly sweetened whipped cream, and macerated fresh fruit that provides beautiful color and texture.
There’s been a long-running argument between Australia and New Zealand over who invented the pavlova which was named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, who visited both countries in the 1920s. While Australians and New Zealanders agree on that, there is still no consensus on who invented it.
Regardless of where it was created, this recipe, adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, is easy to make and perfect for spring holidays like Easter and Passover. By following a few simple techniques, the recipe delivers a nearly foolproof showstopper for your spring celebration.
For the Meringue:
1 ½ cups (10½ ounces) sugar
¾ cup (6 ounces) egg whites (5 to 7 large eggs)
1 ½ teaspoons distilled white vinegar
1 ½ teaspoons cornstarch (use potato starch for Passover recipe)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Fruit Topping:
2 pounds strawberries, hulled and quartered (5 cups)
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon grated lime zest plus 1½ teaspoons juice
⅓ cup chopped fresh mint (or basil), plus 10 small leaves, divided
For the Whipped Cream:
2 cups heavy cream, chilled
2 tablespoons sugar
*Note: Because eggs can vary in size, measuring the egg whites by weight or volume is essential to ensure that you are working with the correct ratio of egg whites to sugar. While baking, open the oven door as infrequently as possible while the meringue is inside. Don't worry if the meringue cracks; it is part of the dessert's charm. The inside of the meringue will remain soft. Do not substitute frozen strawberries for fresh here.
Total Time: 1½ to 2 hours, plus 1¾ hours cooling
- For the Meringue: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 250 degrees. Using pencil, draw 10-inch circle in center of 18 by 13-inch piece of parchment paper.
- Combine sugar and egg whites in bowl of stand mixer; place bowl over saucepan filled with 1 inch simmering water, making sure that water does not touch bottom of bowl. Whisking gently but constantly, heat until sugar is dissolved and mixture registers 160 to 165 degrees, 5 to 8 minutes.
- Fit a stand mixer with whisk attachment and whip mixture on high speed until meringue forms stiff peaks, is smooth and creamy, and is bright white with sheen, about 4 minutes (bowl may still be slightly warm to touch). Stop mixer and scrape down bowl with spatula. Add vinegar, cornstarch (or potato starch), and vanilla and whip on high speed until combined, about 10 seconds.
- Spoon about ¼ teaspoon meringue onto each corner of rimmed baking sheet. Press parchment, marked side down, onto sheet to secure. Pile meringue in center of circle on parchment. Using the marked circle as guide, spread and smooth meringue with back of spoon or spatula from center outward, building 10-inch disk that is slightly higher around edges. Finished disk should measure about 1 inch high with ¼-inch depression in center.
- Bake meringue until exterior is dry and crisp and meringue releases cleanly from parchment when gently lifted at edge with thin metal spatula, 1 to 1½ hours. Meringue should be quite pale (a hint of creamy color is OK). Turn off oven, prop door open with wooden spoon, and let meringue cool in oven for 1½ hours. Remove from oven and let cool completely before topping, about 15 minutes. (Cooled meringue can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 1 week.)
- For the Topping: Toss strawberries with sugar, lime zest and juice, and salt in large bowl. Set aside for 30 minutes.
- For the Whipped Cream: Before serving, stir chopped mint (or basil) into strawberry mixture. Whip cream and sugar in chilled bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment on low speed until small bubbles form, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium and whip until whisk leaves trail, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to high and continue to whip until cream is smooth, thick, and nearly doubled in volume, about 20 seconds longer for soft peaks. If necessary, finish whipping by hand to adjust consistency.
- Carefully peel meringue away from parchment and place on large serving platter. Spoon whipped cream into center of meringue. Using slotted spoon, spoon topping in even layer over whipped cream. Garnish with mint (or basil) leaves. Let stand for at least 5 minutes or up to 1 hour. Slice and serve, drizzling pavlova slices with any juice from bowl.