Top 5 reasons why Pavlova may be the perfect summer dessert:
1) It’s delicious
2) That crunchy meringue topped with a thick layer of whipped cream makes an ideal bed for ANY sweet berry growing nearby
3) It’s a crowd-pleasing dessert fit for kids of all ages, even the gluten intolerants can dig in
4) This isn’t a difficult recipe to master but a finished pavlova can create the illusion of professional sophistication. So soak in that praise because you’re fancy and amazing and a super talented baker and this pavlova totally proves it!
5) It’s meant to look ‘rustic’, which I believe translates to ‘the more imperfections there are the closer to perfect it is’
I truly put point #5 to the test this past weekend when I prepared a large meringue at home so I could drive it three hours north for a special family dessert at the cottage that night. My beautiful bundled meringue baby survived the drive — in a cake carrier, squeezed between sleeping bags and beach toys — but once we arrived and I opened the back hatch, the cake carrier shot out of our jam-packed van, fell to the ground and bounced, like three times, landing face down, broken into a gazillion pieces.
My screams of horror echoed through the forest, “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!”
Have you ever seen that episode of The Simpsons where Homer is preparing a pig roast? The BBQ rolls down a giant hill, sends the pig flying, it lands in a river, shoots out of a damn, so on and so on, and the entire time Homer is running after it yelling, “It’s still good. It’s still good.” Have you seen that one? That was me with my broken pavlova.
It’s just a little shattered, it’s still good, it’s still good.
Nothing a heaping mound of freshly made whipped cream can’t fix, right?!
There laid the next dilemma: I was at the cottage with a carton of heavy cream and no mixer, no blender, not even a whisk, only the fossil of an egg beater that was last used when Elvis was still King.
- 4 large egg whites
- A pinch of salt
- 1 ¼ cups castor sugar (superfine granulated sugar that can be made by pulsing sugar in a food processor, blender or grinder)
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- A few drops vanilla extract
- 2 cups of berries, washed and trimmed
- 2 cups heavy cream
- Mint leaves, for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and draw an 8" diameter circle on it.
- Separate your eggs -- careful not to have any yolk transfer to whites.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, using a whisk attachment, combine egg whites and salt. Begin beating at a low speed and slowly increase it to high. Gradually sprinkle in sugar and cornstarch and continue beating until satiny peaks begin to form. Stop the mixer once you feel your meringue has become stiff and shiny. Start to finish, mixing takes about 4 minutes.
- Sprinkle in vanilla and gently fold in using a rubber spatula.
- Mound meringue onto parchment and, using your drawn guide, gently shape it into a circle. Flatten the top and smooth your sides.
- Place in oven and immediately reduce heat to 300°F. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Turn off heat, and allow meringue to cool completely in the oven, for at least another 30 minutes.
- Prepare whipped cream: add chilled heavy cream to a mixing bowl. Using a whisk attachment, whip for 3 to 4 minutes on medium-low speed, until cream thickens.
- Spoon onto completely cooled meringue and top with clean and dry berries.
- Cut like a pie, into triangle slices and serve with sprigs of mint. Enjoy!
- Before preparing your meringue, be sure to have everything ready and available. Have your sugar and cornstarch measured and the vanilla and rubber spatula at arms length because once you start a meringue you cannot stop and you need to focus on its texture and glossiness.