Four Egg Whites and a Pavlova

pavlova berries 2 Remember a few weeks back when I posted the recipe for lemon-ricotta crostata with mascarpone? As much as I love that recipe, it irked me that it leaves you with four egg whites. But now I feel better because I know exactly what you should do with those whites. Make a pavlova. Make this ethereal dessert ~ named for a Russian prima ballerina ~ with its crisp meringue shell, marshmallow middle, billows of whipped cream and topping of macerated berries. pavlova meringue peaks pavlova meringue 2 Let’s start with the meringue: amazing feat of egg white, sugar and air, fairy tale food. My devotion to meringues stretches back to my childhood days and trips to Pasticceria Marinara in Rome. No matter what other temptations lay behind the glass display cases ~ custard-filled cream puffs, sparkling fruit tarts ~ I always succumbed to the same thing: two oversized meringues sandwiched together with whipped cream and drizzled with chocolate. I was practically incoherent after I finished it, but that never stopped me. pavlova shell Meringue also figured (ever so briefly) in one of my favorite movies from back in the day, Four Weddings and a Funeral: Scarlett (admiring a bride walking down the aisle): Isn’t she beautiful? Fiona: Scarlett, you’re blind; she looks like a big meringue. The movie came out in 1994, less than two years after my own wedding, in which I, too, truth be told, resembled a big meringue in my creamy white silk dress with its voluminous skirt and buttoned-up train (a meringue designed by Carolina Herrera, but still). What can I say? I loved it. Given my long-standing affection for eating (and wearing) meringues, I’m surprised I never made a pavlova before now. I’ve made plenty of meringue cookies over the years. But a giant meringue, I now know, is better; exuberant, over-the-top, a thing of beauty (at least the pastry version), especially when crowned with whipped cream and jeweled fruit. When you slice into it with a cake cutter, the meringue shell crunches, then collapses gently onto its soft insides, followed by the cream and the berries. pavlova collage And it’s easy. The recipe I used for the meringue shell comes from one of Nigella Lawson’s early books ~ How to Eat: The Pleasures and Principles of Good Food. People are wary about meringue (will it collapse? will it crumble?) but this one gave me no trouble at all. After it had baked for 1 hour at 300 degrees, I turned off the oven and let it cool completely, as directed. It came out beautifully crisped and cracked on the surface, and soft and marshmallowy inside. At serving time, I topped it with good cream, whipped at the last second, and fresh strawberries that I had macerated in lemon juice and sugar. I tossed on a handful of blueberries for good measure. My family of four polished off an entire half of it within minutes. I had to rush what was left over to my neighbor’s to prevent us from piggishly eating the rest. But that’s pavlova for you; easy to make, easier to eat. Four egg whites. A trip to your favorite pasticceria, a stroll down the aisle.

Makes 8 servings

Fresh Berry Pavlova

Elegant, simple and yet over-the-top, a pavlova is the perfect dessert in which to showcase spring and summer berries. A meringue shell is topped with whipped cream and fresh berries. The dessert is said to have originated in New Zealand (or Australia, depending on whom you listen to) and is named for Russian prima ballerina Anna Pavlova.

Pavlova differs from straight meringue in that it contains cornstarch, which yields a crispy shell and a soft, marshmallowy interior. Be sure to use fresh, local strawberries rather than those giant cottony ones from the supermarket. This recipe is adapted from one in 'How to Eat: The Pleasures and Principles of Good Food,' by Nigella Lawson.

Ingredients

  • 4 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons superfine sugar, divided
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pint fresh, in-season strawberries
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream, chilled
  • Handful of fresh blueberries

Instructions

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment and draw a 9-inch circle on it. Flip the parchment over and set it back on the baking sheet.

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites with the salt until soft, satiny peaks form. Beat in the 1 1/4 cups sugar, a couple of tablespoons at a time, until the meringue is stiff and glossy, like marshmallow cream. Sprinkle the cornstarch, vinegar and vanilla over the top and mix briefly to combine.

Mound the meringue onto the parchment, spreading it out with a silicon spatula to the edges of the circle. Smooth the top. Set the baking sheet in the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 300 degrees F. Bake for 1 hour; then turn of the oven and leave the pavlova in it to cool completely (at least 2 hours).

Remove the stems from the strawberries and cut them lengthwise into quarters (or halve them if they are small). In a small bowl, mix the strawberries with the lemon juice and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the remaining sugar. Cover with plastic wrap and let macerate, either at room temperature or in the refrigerator, until you are ready to assemble the pavlova.

At serving time, gently pry the cooled pavlova from the parchment and set it on a large platter. Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or a hand mixer, whip the cream with the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar until stiff (I always use a chilled bowl and chilled beaters to get the cream to whip faster). Spread the whipped cream over the top of the pavlova. Spoon the strawberries and some of their juices on top of the whipped cream, and scatter the blueberries on top. Serve immediately.

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24 Responses to Four Egg Whites and a Pavlova

  1. Rosa May (@RosasYummyYums) May 30, 2014 at 10:59 am #

    A colorful and heavenly pavlova. The perfect spring/summer treat.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  2. Laney (Ortensia Blu) May 30, 2014 at 2:55 pm #

    Looks beautiful, Domenica…and easy! I’ve always wanted to try one and you’ve now inspired me…

    • Domenica Marchetti May 30, 2014 at 5:15 pm #

      Definitely try it, Laney. It’s one of the easiest desserts I’ve ever made.

  3. Louise May 30, 2014 at 4:08 pm #

    Oh, my! Can’t wait to try this summery dessert. I have one small problem, though. After the eggs are separated, how can I possibly choose which to make first -the pavlova or the crostata? This decision is stressing me out!

    We loved having lunch with you in Dallas. Come back soon!

    • Domenica Marchetti May 30, 2014 at 5:18 pm #

      Louise! How nice to see you here on the blog. I had a wonderful time meeting all of you and would love to come back. As for dessert: egg whites freeze beautifully, so you can always make the crostata and pop those egg whites in the freezer. On the other hand, a pavlova is perfect for summer. Not much help, am I?! Cheers, D

  4. italyonmymind May 30, 2014 at 5:47 pm #

    Lovely post Domenica – I am not a big fan of the “pav” (what it gets called here in Australia) -they are very much an Aussie dessert from the 1970s, covered in passion fruit and whipped cream. Nowhere near as beautiful (to look at or the taste I am sure) as your gorgeous giant meringue with berries though. And what lovely childhood memories of you in Rome – no wonder you love making it.

    • Domenica Marchetti May 31, 2014 at 10:07 am #

      Thank you for reading, my friend. I only recently learned that pavlovas come from your corner of the world. But I have always had a soft spot (so to speak!) for meringue (except for the kind that goes on top of lemon meringue pie, which I don’t care for). Nigella’s recipe calls for topping the pavlova with passion fruit but it’s strawberry season here so I used those instead. We loved it!

  5. Barb | Creative Culinary May 30, 2014 at 10:03 pm #

    One of my all time favorite desserts; it looks so elegant but it’s so easy to make! I layer my meringues with some dark chocolate, raspberries and whipped cream; SO decadent but now I want to try this! I wont’ say I’m in a rut but I do always make the same one; time for a change.

    • Domenica Marchetti May 31, 2014 at 10:10 am #

      Barb, dark chocolate and raspberries sounds heavenly. One of Nigella’s other books has a recipe for a chocolate meringue pavlova topped with cream and raspberries. Another variation I’lll have to try…Cheers and thanks for your comment.

  6. elisa May 31, 2014 at 3:14 pm #

    As a meringue lover myself , you made my weekend!!! Grazie, sopra ci aggiungero’ il miele!.

  7. MB @ Bourbon and Brown Sugar May 31, 2014 at 6:26 pm #

    What a fabulous post… I adore Four Weddings and a Funeral – and I too looked like a rather large meringue 20-something years ago 🙂 Oh, how we love pav at House Morell. Yours is gorgeous!

    • Domenica Marchetti June 2, 2014 at 9:20 am #

      Meringue dresses must have been the fashion back in the day, MB. Thanks, and looking forward to seeing you soon.

  8. bettyannquirino @Mango_Queen June 1, 2014 at 3:33 pm #

    I just love pavlova and can never do it right. I enjoyed reading your post and now am brave enough to try baking this again. What a delightful, light dessert for summer. Thanks for sharing, Domenica. Always a pleasure to read your write-ups!

    • Domenica Marchetti June 2, 2014 at 9:21 am #

      Betty Ann you’re such a wonderful baker. I have no doubt you’ll conquer the pavlova in no time. Cheers, D

  9. Ciao Chow Linda June 3, 2014 at 5:20 am #

    Great solution for those leftover egg whites. Your pavlova is beautiful. I usually put leftover egg whites in a container and freeze them – them let them defrost when I need them. I usually make individual pavlova (4 egg whites make 8 small pavlova) and top with berries too. The ones I don’t use keep very well in a tin – for when those emergency “sweet rations” are calling.

  10. jamielifesafeast June 3, 2014 at 9:40 am #

    I just love meringues (love making them too though not wearing them) and I love Pavlova but never make them because my men don’t! Sad, right? It is so beautiful and elegant and, yes, topped with berries the best summer dessert. Thanks for reminding me.

  11. Adri June 3, 2014 at 10:10 am #

    Oh bring me my swan costume and a spoon, please. This is gorgeous, and it combines two of my passions – dessert and ballet. What more could I ask for?

  12. Frank Fariello June 8, 2014 at 12:01 pm #

    This looks so yummy, Domenica. I’ve actually never attempted meringue, believe it or not, but it doesn’t sound all that difficult after all. Will have to try this very soon.

  13. Chiara June 9, 2014 at 12:27 am #

    un dolce di sicuro successo, bellissima ricetta Domenica, buona settimana, un abbraccio !

  14. sippitysup June 9, 2014 at 10:22 pm #

    I spend every Christmas with a Pavlova and not once has it ever been this beautiful. I think I’m going to politely pass this recipe on to my Christmas Day hosts. GREG

  15. duespaghetti June 15, 2014 at 4:24 pm #

    What a lovely summer dessert! We may not wait until we have left over egg whites to make it. Can you post a recipe for left over yolks next? : )

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. “I don’t always, but when I do…” & “Have you ever?” Play Date Quiz! – Striving for Adequacy - July 26, 2016

    […] (this is a pavlova, for those of you poor sods who haven’t yet discovered its deliciousness: http://www.domenicacooks.com/2014/05/pavlova/ ), so both sinks were full and overflowing onto the counters, and there was a carpet of flour and […]

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