Please welcome pastry chef extraordinaire Shuna Fish Lydon of Eggbeater who is our guest author for this article on Pavlovas. ~Elise
It’s no coincidence the late Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, for whom the Pavlova dessert was named, is said to have been ethereal, delicate and slightly controversial. Her namesake, this simple confection, is a straightforward enough list of ingredients, but the end result is all about touch, finesse. And it has attracted more than its fair share of controversy. Two distinct neighboring countries take credit for invention and creation. For sake of staying neutral, we will say both New Zealand and Australia are to blame for the delicious Pavlova; an edible translation of sugar turned into cumulous clouds, it is one of the best low fat vehicles for seasonal fruit, whipped cream, sorbet, and ice cream.
Whether you hail from Australia, New Zealand or elsewhere, I hope you’ll attempt this gorgeous recipe. It’s a delightful dessert any time of year.
Working with Egg Whites
Sweet, crunchy, and meltingly soft, Pavlova is a reason for understanding the fickle, hard working, all-purpose egg white.
You create your best egg white-based confections when you know how to treat this important part of the egg. An egg white is pure protein. When room temperature to begin with, egg whites will grow bigger and stronger with whipping. For this reason it’s best to start whipping egg whites on a lower speed, increasing incrementally as you get to the aspired consistency. I like to say I’m cajoling my egg whites into submission.
To achieve room temperature egg whites, take eggs out the night before you need them, or place in a bowl of warm water for about 10 minutes to take their chill off.
Make sure all bowls, hands, and utensils touching egg whites are as clean and free of random oils as possible. When separating eggs, crack in half and gently toss the yolk back and forth between the eggshell halves, dripping egg white out into a clean container. If a bit of yolk drops into your pristine whites, fish it out with a clean eggshell. Hint: if a bit of shell gets in, they will sink to the bottom and be easy to spot and hold back when it comes time to use the egg whites.
Not sure what to do with the leftover egg yolks? Most custards like pastry cream or stovetop pudding are egg yolk based.
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar OR 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar OR distilled white vinegar
- 1 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup (6 ounces, about 6) large egg whites, preferably room temperature
- Pinch salt
- 2 pints fresh or frozen berries
- 1/4 cup sugar
- Whipped Cream for topping
1 Place rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 275°. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Pour the vanilla and vinegar (if using) into a small cup. Stir the cornstarch into the sugar in a small bowl.
2 In a large bowl of a heavy-duty mixer, fitted with whisk attachment, whip egg whites, cream of tartar (if using) and salt, starting on low, increasing incrementally to medium speed until soft peaks/trails start to become visible, and the egg white bubbles are very small and uniform, approximately 2 to 3 minutes.
3 Increase speed to medium-high, slowly and gradually sprinkling in the sugar-cornstarch mixture. A few minutes after these dry ingredients are added, slowly pour in the vanilla and vinegar (if you didn't use cream of tartar.) Increase speed a bit and whip until meringue is glossy, and stiff peaks form when the whisk is lifted, 4 to 5 minutes.
4 Pipe or spoon the meringue into 8-10 large round mounds that are 3 inches wide on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicon liner. With the back of a spoon, create an indentation in the middle of the mound for holding the filling once meringue is baked.
5 Place baking sheet in the oven. Reduce oven temperature to 250°F. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the meringues are crisp, dry to the touch on the outside, and white -- not tan-colored or cracked. The interiors should have a marshmallow-like consistency. Check on meringues at least once during the baking time. If they appear to be taking on color or cracking, reduce temperature 25 degrees, and turn pan around.
6 Gently lift from the baking sheet and cool on a wire rack. Will keep in a tightly sealed container at room temperature, or individually wrapped, for up to a week if your house is not humid.
7 Served topped with your favorite filling - lemon curd, raspberry or blueberry sauce, and freshly whipped cream.
Recipe adapted from Flo Baker's pavlovas in the San Francisco Chronicle: Fourth of July dessert has roots in Australia
Sauce or Filling Directions
If you want to make a berry sauce, heat a couple pints of fresh or frozen berries in a medium saucepan with about a quarter cup of sugar. Heat on medium heat, stirring once or twice, for about 5 to 10 minutes, depending on how much the berries are falling aprt. Remove from heat and let cool.
Yield: Makes 8-10 pavlovas.