A pavlova is a light, delicate and sweet meringue dessert. The outside should be crisp and the inside soft like a marshmallow. The dessert was first created in Australia or New Zealand around 1926 and named in honor of the Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova. Working with meringue poses a number of challenges, but with these tips you will be able to make a beautiful, delicious pavlova for your next dinner party, whether served with fresh berries in the summer or lemon curd in the winter.
Equipment and Preparation
Making a pavlova successfully is much easier with the right equipment. You will need a stand mixer equipped with a whisk attachment. The bowl, mixer and whisk should be impeccably clean and free of water or oil residue before beginning. Carefully separate your eggs while they are still cold and then allow the egg whites to rest for at least half an hour before you begin making the pavlova. You can also allow your eggs to sit at room temperature for several hours before separating them.
The Ingredients and Supplies
A pavlova requires only a few ingredients, including egg whites, superfine sugar, cornstarch, vanilla, and vinegar or cream of tartar. The vinegar and cream of tartar serve the same function, so you will only need one of the two. You will probably also want sugared fresh berries and whipped cream or lemon curd to place on top of your pavlovas. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees before you begin whipping the egg whites, as a properly preheated oven is critical. Be sure to line a baking sheet with baker's parchment paper or a silicone liner. Combine liquid ingredients to be added to the egg whites in a small bowl and dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Having everything ready to use will help you to make perfect pavlovas.
Making the Pavlova
Begin whipping six egg whites slowly along with a pinch of salt. Gradually increase to a medium speed on your mixer. After two to three minutes the egg whites should have small, even bubbles. Increase the speed to medium high and slowly sprinkle in the sugar and cornstarch mixture. Allow it to mix well and add the vanilla and vinegar mixture. Continue whipping on high speed until the meringue is stiff and glossy. Spoon 8 to 10 large dollops of meringue onto your prepared baking sheet. Make an indention in the top of each pavlova. When you are ready to serve, use the indentations to hold any toppings. Reduce oven temperature to 250 degrees and bake for 50 to 60 minutes. The color will not darken substantially, but the outside of the pavlova should be crisp to the touch. Avoid pressing hard or piercing the pavlova, to prevent crushing or damage. Serve when cooled or keep in an airtight container for several days.
You can serve pavlovas with berries, lemon curd or another lightweight fruit topping. Choose delicate and light flavors to accompany the fragile meringue dessert. Ripe peaches, sliced finely, are another good option for your pavlovas. Make fresh whipped cream, subtly flavored with a good quality vanilla, shortly before serving. A single large pavlova can also be prepared; however, it can be quite challenging to serve. The soft interior texture of a pavlova does not lend itself well to slicing or cutting.