Meringue is a beautiful thing, literally. And it tastes heavenly. Throughout the holiday baking at my mother's house, we ended up with some leftovers that lent themselves perfectly to making a pavlova, and I've wanted to post one on the blog for a while, so this was the perfect opportunity. We had extra egg whites, and we also had some chocolate flavored whipping cream that would go bad if we didn't use it up quickly. We wanted berries to go on the top, and had a hard time finding them in winter in Utah, but we got these beautiful blackberries that I thought would go well with the chocolate cream. The truth is that this was my first time making a Pavlova, although I have admired pictures in recipe books, and enjoyed store bought ones before. It's a beautiful, and tasty dessert from New Zealand (or Australia, there is some debate on its origin) that works wonderfully for the gluten-free set. The only thing I had to adjust was the vinegar because John seems to have trouble with distilled vinegar. I chose to use the recipe from www.joyofbaking.com because I feel that their recipes work out wonderfully whenever I use them. I've copied it over here and have adjusted it to exactly how I did it. It was truly delicious. One of the best things about a Pavlova is the diversity. Cream doesn't just have to be whipped and sweetened, but can very easily be flavored as well, as I did here, simply adding Hershey's Chocolate Syrup (about 1/3 cup to 1 cup of whipping cream). Think of whatever kind of fruit you like, and what flavored cream would be good with it. The meringue cake might seem a bit daunting, but it's actually quite simple to make. The joy of baking also had some good tips. If you are just using regular granulated sugar, as I was, run it through your food processor for 30-60 seconds prior to mixing it into the egg whites, so that it's a finer grain, and your cake will be smoother. One of the most important things to know about making a successful meringue is to use a clean, dry glass or stainless steel bowl. Honestly, I've tried to make a meringue before in a plastic mixing bowl and it just won't work. You need to be able to beat the eggs well, and so there can't be any "give" in the sides of your bowl. It is also important to add the sugar slowly, so that it incorporates and dissolves it all, and you don't have a gritty texture.
Fresh fruit - kiwi, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, passion fruit, peaches, pineapple, or other fruit of your choice
Preheat oven to 250 degrees F (130 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Line a baking sheet
with parchment paper and draw a 7 inch (18 cm) circle on the paper.
In the bowl of your electric mixer , with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until they hold soft peaks. Start adding the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, and continue to beat until the meringue holds very stiff peaks. (Test to see if the sugar is fully dissolved by rubbing a little of the meringue between your thumb and index finger. The meringue should feel smooth, not gritty. If it feels gritty the sugar has not fully dissolved so keep beating until it feels smooth between your fingers). Sprinkle the vinegar and cornstarch over the top of the meringue and, with a rubber spatula
, fold in.
Gently spread the meringue inside the circle drawn on the parchment paper , smoothing the edges, making sure the edges of the meringue are slightly higher than the center. (You want a slight well in the center of the meringue to place the whipped cream and fruit.)
Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes or until the outside is dry and takes on a very pale cream color. Turn the oven off, leave the door slightly ajar, and let the meringue cool completely in the oven. (The outside of the meringue will feel firm to the touch, if gently pressed, but as it cools you will get a little cracking and you will see that the inside is soft and marshmallowy.)
The cooled meringue can be made and stored in a cool dry place, in an airtight container, for a few days.
Just before serving gently place the meringue onto a serving plate. Whip the cream in your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, until soft peaks form. Sweeten with the sugar and vanilla and then mound the softly whipped cream into the center of the meringue. Arrange the fruit randomly, or in a decorative pattern, on top of the cream. Serve immediately as this dessert does not hold for more than a few hours.