Weekend Cooking: Pavlova
While perusing Table of Contents, a cookbook filled with recipes and anecdotes from authors, I became fixated on one of Sara Gruen’s (Water for Elephants, 2007) contributions: Merran Neville’s Pavlova. From the ingredients, I deduced Pavlova was a dessert but beyond that, I was mystified.
After a bit of research, I learned that Pavlova is a meringue-based dessert that was created in the 1920s to honor Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova while she toured either Australia or New Zealand. I decided to attempt this recipe in conjunction with Beth Fish Reads’s Weekend Cooking Challenge.
Anthony and I have never really eaten meringue–not the cookies, nor atop a quivering slice of lemon meringue pie–so this was going to be something new at Chez Book, Line, and Sinker. We were cautiously optimistic about the outcome and our reactions.
I had everything in the house except the raspberries and Apple Cider vinegar. The directions call for using a mixer with the whisk attachment, but I couldn’t summon the energy to go to the basement for my Kitchen Aid. A hand mixer with regular beaters worked just fine.
After folding in additional sugar, vanilla, cornstarch, and cider vinegar, I piled the mixture on to a baking sheet lined with parchment. The recipe called for an 8-inch mound, but I eyeballed it.
After baking for a bit more than an hour at a low heat, the Pavlova emerged from the oven with a toast shell that started to crack almost instantly. Fear not, intrepid reader (and baker!), this is expected.
After it cooled completely, I made some whipped cream with sugar and vanilla and sliced into the Pavlova. If we were having a party, I would have covered the top with cream but since it’s just the two of us, I didn’t want the leftovers to get soggy. Here’s the Pavlova after I sliced it.
I garnished the Pavlova with a Matterhorn of whipped cream and fresh raspberries.
Anthony and I were floored by this Pavlova. It was airy and crispy on the outside, and angel-foodcake-like on the inside. I can’t imagine that this is high in calories or fat–it’s basically egg whites, sugar, and dashes of a few other things. Only the whipped cream adds fat and it can be controlled. We’ve never had anything like this and plan to enjoy Pavlova again soon with friends and family. Ethereal!
Merran Neville’s Pavlova
adapted from Sara Gruen’s submission in Table of Contents by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp
For the Pavlova
- 4 large egg whites
- Pinch of salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 cup sugar, divided in half
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 285F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Use a mixer to beat egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar. Beat until still, not dry. (I used a hand mixer for 3 minutes.)
- Beat in 1/2 cup sugar until mixture is thick and holds shiny peaks.
- Mix in cornstarch with remaining 1/2 cup of sugar. Fold gently with spatula.
- Add cider vinegar and vanilla extract, folding them in gently to egg mixture until just mixed.
- Pile the mixture in an 8-inch mound on the baking sheet. Bake for one hour, until crust is firm and toasted.
- Let it cool on a wire rack and then invert it. (I skipped the inverting because I didn’t want to smoosh the top of my meringue mountain.)
For the Topping
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or Gran Marnier
- Ripe berries (I used raspberries)
- Whip the cream until thick and then fold in sugar and vanilla or liqueur. (I accidentally added my sugar and vanilla at the onset and didn’t have any problems.)
- Spread the whipped cream on the Pavlova and pile the berries on top.