Pavlova with Whipped Cream and Fresh Fruit
When I was an exchange student in Belgium, my best friend was Hannah from Australia. Hannah told me stories of inside-out seasons (Christmas on the beach?! That could blow a Canadian girl’s mind!), taught me important exchange-student life skills (like which Belgian beers were the strongest, and how to stuff your rapidly expanding exchange-student ass into your tiny pants), and introduced me the Australian delights of Tim Tams, Anzac biscuits, and Pavlova. I make Pavlova on occasion, and always think lovingly of my favorite Aussie, somewhere out there on the upside-down side of the world.
Pavlova is a traditional to Australians and New Zealanders that was apparently created in honour of the ballerina Anna Pavlova, when she toured in those parts. It is basically a delicate mountain of whipped meringue. After being baked under low heat, the outside shell gets crunchy, the top gets browned, but the inside stays chewy and soft – like creamy fresh marshmallow. It then gets piled high with softly whipped cream and fresh fruit. The result is dreamy, with the consistency of a cream-smothered cloud.
For a dessert with quite an impressive appearance (and taste), it is ridiculously quick and easy to create. All you have to do is beat some egg whites in a standing mixer with cream of tarter until stiff peaks form. Slowly add some sugar (Aussies use Castor sugar, which is very fine white sugar – I use regular white sugar and it does a lovely job), some cornstarch, a dash of vinegar (to stabilize the whites) and vanilla. Mound it all in into a circle on a greased and floured baking sheet, or pile it into a springform pan. The baking part takes the longest – it needs about an hour and fifteen minutes. While it is cooling, whip some cream (I add some sour cream, a touch of sugar, and vanilla – you could equally use cocoa and sugar for a chocolatey version), and slice some fruit. If you’re using fruit that browns quickly, toss it in a splash of lemon juice. Top the meringue with a blanket of whipped cream, then decorate it with the fruit as you choose. If you’ve got the attention span, concentric circles are impressive looking. But a you can easily just heap it on, which I think is also attractive – particularly if you’re using just one type of fruit, like raspberries, or pomegranate.
- 4 egg whites
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp cream of tarter
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 tsp vinegar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup heavy cream chilled
- 1 tsp vanilla optional
- 2 tbsp sugar optional
- fresh fruit sliced
Grease and flour a parchment-lined baking sheet, or a springform pan. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Beat the egg whites with the salt and cream of tarter in the large bowl of a standing mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar, and continue beating till it will hold stiff peaks. Beat in the cornstarch, vinegar and vanilla.
Using a rubber spatula, mound the meringue in a circle on the prepared baking sheet, or into the springform pan. Either way, make the sides slightly higher than the center, to create a bit of a well for the whipped cream. Bake in center of oven for 1 hr 15 minutes, then allow to cool inside the oven with the door slightly ajar. The outside will be dry, and will be a pale, cream colour. The surface may crack, but the inside will be moist and marshmallowy.
Just before serving, whip the cream (adding 1 tsp vanilla and 2 tbsp sugar, if desired). Pile the cream onto the meringue and top with the fresh, sliced fruit. Serve immediately.