I remember the first time I had pavlova. I was on a tour of Europe after college graduation, and it was one of the desserts on offer at a restaurant we’d stopped at. I didn’t know what it was, but it looked neat– all billowy cream and luscious fruit– and I assumed it would have cake or something in the middle to balance it out. It did not. Honestly, I thought it was overly sweet, the meringue was hollow and dry, and I didn’t really care for it. But something must have stuck with me, because here I am trying to make my own version, and hoping I get it right.
According to my binge-watching of The Great British Baking Show, pavlova is supposed to have a soft, marshmallowy interior and a crisp exterior. It’s also generally served with something tart to counterbalance all the sweetness of the meringue– I decided on lemon curd. I feel like ordinarily I’d use the extra egg yolks leftover from the meringue to make my curd, but as you recall I prefer the lighter texture of whole-egg lemon curd, so I’ll have to use the extra yolks in something else. I piled on the berries, using a mixture of strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries, and just barely sweetened my whipped cream.
The pavlova turned out fantastic– the meringue was sweet and pillowy (though I couldn’t get it off the parchment without risking it breaking, it was very delicate) and the lemon curd added just enough tanginess to cut through the sugar and whipped cream. Really the perfect summer dessert, and it feels light and almost healthy, despite all the cream and the lemon curd. Plus, it’s a real showstopper in the looks department– so indulgent-looking with the mounds of berries and cream! I’m already trying to come up with other flavor combinations, but I suspect that I’ll be coming back to this one time and time again…
Pavlova with Lemon Curd and Berries (slightly adapted from Joy of Baking)
- 4 egg whites, room temperature
- 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
- 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1 tsp. white vinegar
- 2 tsp. cornstarch
- Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
- Beat egg whites with cream of tartar on medium speed until the egg whites foam up and hold soft peaks.
- Turn mixer to high and beat in your sugar about a tablespoon at a time. Continue to beat until a firm meringue forms.
- Add vanilla and beat to combine.
- Pour vinegar over the meringue and sprinkle cornstarch over the top. Using a spatula, fold them in until combined.
- Spread meringue into a 9″ circle on a parchment-lined baking sheet, using your spatula to make a slight dip in the center.
- Bake for about an hour, until meringue is pale ivory and firm and dry to the touch. Turn off the oven, leave the door open, and let the meringue cool completely inside the oven– probably another 30 minutes or so.
- At this point you can seal the completely cooled meringue into an airtight container and store it in a cool, dry place for a day or two.
- When ready to serve, top with desired toppings– I used my whole-egg lemon curd, lightly sweetened whipped cream (about 1 1/2 cups before whipping), mixed berries, and more whipped cream– and serve immediately. This dessert will not keep, so encourage people to eat up!