Pavlova (Meringue and Fruit)

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I generally make Pavlova in the summer when I can use local, fresh fruit, but I tend to feel the need for this “slice of summer” all year round.  Just when you think you can’t eat another piece of apple pie or apple crisp (do check out my recipe for this), pavlova saves the day.  It is light , sweet, and bursting with fruit flavors of your choice.   I’ve made it using almost every fruit imaginable, but I seem to always come back to using berries.  You can also add some cocoa and turn this into a chocolate meringue.  Raspberries and cream on top of the chocolate meringue is just heavenly.  I love the versatility of this dessert, especially since I have been making it for 25 plus years.

25 years ago, my baking capabilities consisted of cookies, breads and muffins.  I always kept it simple.   Attempting to make a dessert I had never even heard of,  was a bit challenging.  In February of 1981, I saw this picture and recipe for pavlova in “Family Circle Magazine” ( did I really read that magazine?!), and I tore it out in hopes that I would get up the courage to give it a try.  The opportunity presented itself a few months later when we were having some friends over for dinner. As I have mentioned before, the early 80s was a time for “at home” entertaining as we, and our circle of friends, all had children and were “house poor.”  Going out to dinner was expensive, especially when you added in the cost of the baby-sitter.   Entertaining was a bit more formal then.  It was a thrill to take out the “good china, crystal and silverware that you had received as wedding gifts.  We did entertain casually as well, but this pavlova required some fanfare.  So out came the fancy stuff in the hope that I could pull off this elegant dessert.  Now I tend to serve it at our summertime barbecues.  Times change.

Over the years, I lost the original recipe for this, and only have the picture from “Family Circle Magazine.”  I used to duplicate this picture exactly until I got up the nerve, many years later, to try different fruits.  Oh yes, you could say I didn’t have a lot of baking confidence back then.   I found another recipe for the meringue and then just started to use my imagination and try other fruits.  I will give you the basic recipe for pavlova, and then I will give you some of my fruit suggestions.  I encourage you to use the fruit you love best ( but definitely not apples or pears or anything that crunchy).   Serve it on a fancy cake plate or plop it on a paper plate.  Either way, it can’t miss.

RECIPE:

7 large egg whites, at room temperature ( a tip my mother taught me)

1/8 tsp. salt

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

1 TBSP cornstarch

1 1/4 TBSP distilled white vinegar

(** add 1/2 cup cocoa, sifted for chocolate meringue)

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1 tsp vanilla

2 TBSP fresh lime juice*

3 TBSP granulated sugar*

Fruit of choice:

1.  Mixture of berries… raspberries (red and yellow), blueberries, blackberries and sliced strawberries.

2.  Sliced kiwi, sliced strawberries, canned mandarin oranges, sliced banana.

3.  If using a chocolate meringue, I use only red raspberries  and then shave dark chocolate on top.

To make meringue:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

2.  Beat the egg whites in a metal bowl with salt in a standing electric mixture until they hold soft peaks.  Beat in the granulated sugar and continue beating until mixture holds stiff, glossy peaks. Beat in the cornstarch and then the vinegar.

3.  Spoon the egg whites onto the parchment paper in a circle measuring approximately 9 inches round.  Use the back of a spoon to smooth the top and the sides.  I like to make the sides a little higher so you can fill up the middle with the whip cream.

4.  Bake in the center of the oven for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 300 degrees. Bake until the meringue has puffed up and cracked on the top and is lightly browned browned, about 45 minutes more.  Turn off the oven, prop the oven door open and let the Pavlova cool in the oven for least 30 minutes more.  Then transfer to plate to cool completely.  *  Don’t cool completely on the parchment paper, or it may stick.

Assembling the Pavlova:

1.  If using berries only, toss with the lime juice and sugar and let sit for 10 minutes.  This is optional.

2.  Beat cream with vanilla and 1 TBSP granulated sugar until nicely whipped.

3.  Mound the whipped cream all over the top of the meringue.  Top with the berries, or fruit selection of your choice.

4.  To serve, slice into wedges, using a serrate knife.

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