Summer Fruit Pavlovas with Strawberries, Mixed Fruits, or Roasted Cherries

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Summer Fruit Pavlovas
with Strawberries, Mixed Fruits, or Roasted Cherries

PHOTOS AND RECIPE BY PAOLA THOMAS

I often bring pavlovas to summer parties—this ethereal combination of whipped meringue, cream, and fruit as airy and spectacular as a ballerina’s tutu. When I first came to Seattle, I noticed that friends begged me to make them again and again. I soon realized the pavlova is not well-known in America. Both Australia and New Zealand claim to have invented the dessert—a subject of contentious debate—but it was clearly named in honor of the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. It’s also naturally gluten-free and fabulously easy to make. If you can whip eggs and cream, you can make pavlova.

Some people are a little intimidated by meringue, but once you’ve mastered this basic recipe you can use it as an elegant base for fruit all year long—from roasted sweetened rhubarb in spring , through peaches and cherries, to pomegranate seeds and passion fruit pulp in winter. But pavlova really comes into its own with the berries and stone-fruits of summer, either fresh or roasted, so the juices ooze and meld sweetly with the whipped cream

Basic Pavlova (makes one large or six small pavlovas)

Serves 8-10 | active time: 15 minutes (total time: 1 1/2 hours, plus drying time)

4 egg whites at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups baker’s sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon distilled or white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pint whipping cream, whipped
Fresh fruit or other toppings (see recipes below)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking tray with parchment. Draw a circle approximately 12-inches across on the paper (or six small circles, 4 1/2–inches across, if you want to individual servings).

Make sure your hands and all utensils are scrupulously clean. Fat or grease of any kind means your egg whites won’t whip (I break my eggs into a small bowl first to make sure the whites are free of yolk and shell). Measure out all the remaining ingredients so they are ready to assemble once the eggs whites are whipped.

Beat the egg whites with the salt until you have stiff peaks. You should be able to turn your bowl upside down and the whites will stay intact. Beat in the sugar, a tablespoon or so at a time , until the meringue is very stiff and shiny (about 5-7 minutes), but do not overbeat. The beaters should leave deep trails through the meringue. Sprinkle over the cornstarch, vinegar, and vanilla and fold in lightly.

Spoon the meringue onto the circle(s) on the paper and smooth the top and sides into a nest shape. Place on a center rack in the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 300°F. Cook for 1 1/4 hours for a big meringue, 40 minutes for smaller ones, then turn off the oven, prop the door open with a wooden spoon and leave the pavlova in the oven to cool completely (this can be done overnight before serving). Your finished pavlova will be slightly off-white, with a crisp outer shell and a marshmallowy interior. It doesn’t matter if there are cracks. The meringue shell(s) can be made a day or two before serving and stored in an airtight box.

When the meringue is fully cooled, carefully peel back the parchment paper. Whip the cream until gently stiff and pile on top, smoothing evenly, then spoon your choice of fruit topping over the cream. The meringue will start to soften after you’ve added the cream and fruit, so assemble as close to serving as possible, but leftovers can be stored in the fridge for a day or two. I bet they won’t last that long.

Macerated Strawberries
This is perhaps the most classic pavlova fruit topping—perfect for early summer, but welcomed all season long. If you’d like to experiment, substitute 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar for the lemon juice, for a deeper, sophisticated flavor. Or mix strawberries with other fruits and berries for a more colorful, complex version (shown here).

2 pints strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice.

Rinse the strawberries and cut them in halves or quarters, leave small ones whole. Place strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice in a bowl, stir and leave to macerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.

Roasted Cherries
This is a different take on a pavlova—topped with roasted dark cherries and their syrup. Roasting softens the cherries and brings out their flavor, while the juice goes almost jammy. If you are a cherry-lover, this may be your new favorite summer dessert.

2 cups fresh dark cherries, pitted (not Rainiers)
2/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Combine cherries, sugar and cornstarch in a 9-inch square baking dish and toss to mix. Roast for 30-45 minutes until juices are thick and syrupy, stirring occasionally. Leave to cool completely.

VARIATIONS

Brown Sugar: Try substituting half a cup of sugar in the recipe with half a cup of brown sugar. It will give your meringues a hint of caramel and the color of champagne silk.

Nuts: Chopped hazelnuts or pistachios can be sprinkled over the meringue before baking to give a nutty crunch and an additional flavor dimension.

vegetarian • gluten-free

 

 

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