With all the great berries growing nearby I knew that I had to make some sort of dessert using them for our dinner party. Since I was experimenting with my “rice and meatball” timbale, I wanted a fairly straight forward dessert and inspired by a photo in a recent issue of Gourmet, I decided on making pavlova. Pavlova is a meringue creation which is crispy on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside. It is named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova and was created in New Zealand after a performance there. Some argue that it was first made in Australia, but whatever its origin, this is a dessert that you should have in your repertoire.
I’ve made individual meringues before, but to be honest I think this larger version came out better than the smaller ones, which were a little crispier and definitely chewier than this . You can make the meringue earlier in the day (or even the day before) and all that’s left is to whip up cream and toss some berries with a little sugar and you’re ready to go. I used strawberries and blackberries, but you can go with whatever is in season and looks good to you. I think sliced ripe peaches with blueberries and raspberries would make a great summer dessert.
8 egg whites, at room temperature
Pinch of salt
2-1/2 cups superfine sugar
4 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
I pint whipping cream-whipped with 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Your favorite mixture of berries
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Draw an 8″ circle on a sheet of parchment paper and line a baking sheet with it.
In a mixer fitted with a whisk (or with handheld mixer), beat the egg whites and salt on medium-high speed until peaks form, about 3 minutes. With the machine on medium speed, whisk in the sugar a little at a time, then turn the machine back to high to fully incorporate. Add the cornstarch and whisk to blend, then add the vinegar and when incorporated, whisk in the vanilla.
Pile the meringue onto the parchment, using a spatula to spread the meringue around the circle and piling the sides a little higher than the middle. Put it in the oven and immediately reduce the oven to 300 degrees. Bake the meringue for 1-1/2 hours, the turn the oven off and prop open the door. Let the meringue cool down completely, for about an hour.
To assemble place the cooled Pavlova shell onto a large platter. Mound the whipped cream in the center, then spoon the berries over the cream. Cut into slices, but not until you’ve shown your guests how beautiful it is!
Serves 10-12. I made a half recipe and served 7.