Pavlova is a popular summery dessert that not only tastes good, but looks good too! Swirls of delicate meringue topped with ice-cream, seasonal fruit, and smatterings of whipped cream… It’s not hard to see why this elegant dessert was named after Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova. The culinary equivalent of tulle, satin, and feminine grace, pavlova is an ever-popular and impressive classic.
With easy summer entertaining in mind, it may be a pleasant change to serve deconstructed pavlova. Instead of assembling the pavlova ahead of time, set out bowls of individual meringues, fresh berries/fruit, whipped cream, ice cream, caramel and chocolate sauce, and let your guests align their creativity with their appetites.
For perfect meringues, keep the following in mind:
– the egg whites should be at room temperature when whipped
– the bowl in which the egg whites are whipped must be clean and free of any oil or egg yolk
– white granulated cane sugar in the States is generally finely granulated and works well, although an ultra-fine sugar is often available in the baking aisle, and this is optimal. In South Africa, castor sugar should always be used
– gradually add the sugar once the whites have reached the soft peak stage, and not before. If enough air is not incorporated initially, the meringue will be dense.
- 4 egg whites
- pinch of salt
- 1¼ cups white sugar
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons white vinegar
- whipped heavy cream, with sugar and vanilla to taste
- seasonal fruits (e.g., berries, kiwi fruit, passion fruit)
- ice cream (pages 124 and 125 of South African Cooking in the USA and/or custard (Crème patisserie, page 159 of South African Cooking in the USA)
- caramel (see blog entry on making caramelized condensed milk) and chocolate bar sauce (page 124 of South African Cooking in the USA)
- Place parchment paper or non stick foil (shiny side down) on baking sheets. Dust with a little cornstarch and set aside.
- Set oven to pre-heat at 270°F.
- Whisk the egg whites with salt until light and foamy, with the bubbles evenly distributed (i.e., the soft peak stage).
- Slowly add the sugar, initially a spoon at a time, while beating continuously until very stiff and shiny.
- Sift the cornstarch over the whites and fold in lightly with the vinegar.
- Pipe or spoon the meringue foam onto the baking sheets in desired serving shapes and sizes.
- Bake at 270°F for about 1 hour, until light and dry. If not quite dry, turn the oven off and leave the meringue shells in the oven to cool.
- When quite cold, store in an airtight container in a cool place, until needed.