A few years ago I blogged a Pavlova with Peaches and Blueberries, lovely summer dessert from the delectable book Meringue by Linda K. Jackson and Jennifer Evan Gardner. In a sentence, a pavlova is a big meringue shell with a high edge, filled first with pastry cream or whipped cream and then topped with fruit. Here’s another idea, perfect for this lovely first round of strawberries that seem so abundant now.
It’s a perfect weekend extravaganza, and quite easy to create. From start to finish it is a matter of at least 3 hours, though.
Now, peaches are not yet in season but berries are. So I’m suggesting you try a strawberry pavlova, one with an underlying layer of strawberry jam for a double berry hit.
I’m not sure why, but in Meringue there are two distinct baking methods for the pavlovas. The longish one starts with the oven at 350 degrees, you begin baking and lower the temperature to 250 degrees after just five minutes, turn the heat off after an hour, but leave the meringue in for another three hours. That’s four hours in your oven, which may affect you overall meal planning.
In the second method, and the one I used here, you again start the oven at 350 degrees, but lower it to 300 when the pavlova goes in, then bake for an hour, turn the heat off and leave in the oven for an hour. Just two hours of oven time.
Both methods work. In the pictures below you see the raw white meringue before the oven experience and then the browned version after time in the oven. I haven’t mastered cooking the meringue and getting it out still very white. And I’m not sure I can. Summer is not necessarily the time to be making meringue. On a summer day, it can be hot and dry, in say Las Vegas, and meringue making there is a breeze. But on the East Coast, we already have high humidity on most of our hot days now. Once out of the oven, the humidity attacks the meringue, turning it from crisp to gooey almost before your eyes.
What to do about that softening problem? Timing is everything. I use the second, shorter baking method and arrange to pull the pavlova from the oven just a few moments before dessert time. In goes the whipped cream, then the strawberries on top, and the pavlova is ready for applause.
It’s a simple dessert but wonderfully elegant. And the technique that Jackson and Gardner present for whipping up the meringue works magically and wonderfully. It’s the only way to make meringue.
Strawberry and Strawberry Jam Pavlova
Yield: serves 8
For the meringue shell:
- 4 large egg whites, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar
- Pinch of salt
- 1 cup superfine sugar
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
For the jam and whipped cream filling:
- 1 pint jar of strawberry jam [other berry flavors are welcome]
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
For the fruit topping:
- 4 cups of fresh berries
- 1 to 2 tablespoons of sugar [optional]
- ¼ cup rum, brandy or berry liqueur
Begin with the meringue shell which will take a few hours from start to finish. Work that time into you meal planning.
Preheat your oven to 350⁰F.
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add vinegar and salt and beat on medium-high until soft peaks forms. Add the sugar, about a tablespoon at a time, beating until all of the sugar is incorporated. Continue beating on high until the meringue is stiff glossy peaks. Beat in the cornstarch, about 1 minute more.
Like a baking sheet with parchment paper. Pip or spoon the meringue into a 10-inch circle, making the sides higher than the center. Put the pavlova in the oven, lower the temperature to 300⁰ and bake for 1 hour Turn the heat off the oven but leave the meringue shell in the oven for another hour. When completely cool, loosen the meringue by gently peeling it of the parchment or by sliding an offset spatula underneath the shell.
Whip the cream sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer until stiff.
Rinse the fruit and dry. You can leave the berries whole or halve or quarter them. Toss with sugar and or liqueur if you desire. If using liqueur, you want the berries prepared an hour in advance and chilled in the refrigerator.
To assemble the pavlova, gently transfer the meringue shell to your serving plate. Spread first the jam and then the whipped cream filling in your shell just up to the higher border. Top with the prepared strawberries. The classic design is a spiral, but a random arrangement is rustic and equally edible. So, you can simply pile the fruit on for that less formal appearance.
Serve immediately. This dessert really does not save beyond your dinner table. In your fridge, it will just become a soggy mess. Serve seconds.
Source: Meringue by Linda K. Jackson and Jennifer Evan Gardner [Gibbs Smith, 2012]
Photo Credits [top]: Canon T2i, 18-55MM Macro lens, F/3.5, 1/30th second, ISO-320