I’ve been thinking about making pavlova — a light dessert of baked meringue filled with whipped cream, berries and lemon curd — for years. It’s always felt intimidating.
With more time at home for baking these days, I got adventurous one weekend.
This incredible-looking, summery treat isn’t actually a terrible amount of work, if you don’t count having to wash your stand mixer bowl and whisk twice. Having plenty of time is a must, though.
The meringue recipe is inspired by a blog called Sally’s Baking Addiction.
I’ve found making one big pavlova is perfect for four or five people. For two people, I’d try spooning the mixture into six mini shells, then sealing leftovers in an airtight container.
I’ve had great results making the meringue over my lunch hour. It bakes on low, then cools with the oven door open until dessert time. If you can, try on a low-humidity day. Moisture and meringue aren’t friends.
If you must make it when it’s humid, I’d suggest starting the meringue even earlier and turning the oven off (but not opening it) after the initial bake.
Ideally, the outside will be crunchy, but the inside walls will be soft and marshmallow-y.
A note about the curd: This is a tried-and-true recipe I discovered a few years ago. You could also make one from other fruit, but lemon is a classic. I like that it calls for the four egg yolks left over from the meringue.
4 egg whites, separated
and at room temperature
1 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Heat oven to 350 degrees (you’ll turn it down as soon as meringue goes in).
Place egg whites in a stand mixer and whisk, gradually increasing speed. As they start to get frothy and form soft peaks, gradually mix in sugar (I do it in four parts). Meringue will start form stiff peaks and look glossy.
Whisk in vanilla for about one more minute. Peaks should be stiff (they should stay put even if bowl is turned over). Gently fold in cream of tartar and cornstarch using a spatula.
Use a 9-inch cake pan and pencil to draw a circle on parchment paper. Flip paper over and place it on a cookie sheet. Lightly dust it with cornstarch for easy meringue removal later.
With a spoon, gently fill in circle with meringue. Build up slight walls on sides and add a dip in middle for filling.
Turn oven down to 200 degrees and bake for 90 minutes. If one side browns more quickly than another, turn sheet around. Otherwise, try not to open oven. Finished pavlova should be slightly golden and will be dry and firm on outside. Cool gradually, ideally by turning oven off and slightly opening door.
Whipped Cream Filling
1/2 pint heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons powdered sugar
1/8 cup fresh whole raspberries
1/4 cup fresh strawberries,
cut into bite-sized pieces
1/4 cup fresh blueberries
Start whisking cream in a stand mixer, gradually increasing speed. As it whips, add in vanilla and sugar. Whip to firm peaks. You can add more sugar to taste, but meringue itself will be plenty sweet. Fold in berries just before assembling pavlova.
4 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
4 lemons, juiced and zested
1 stick butter, cut into pats
Whisk together egg yolks and sugar until smooth. If your lemons don’t yield 1/3 cup juice, add cold water to get to scant 1/3 cup liquid. Add lemon juice and zest to egg mixture and stir well. Add to a small saucepan and stir constantly with wooden spoon over medium.
Lemon curd will thicken in eight to 10 minutes. If mixture starts to bubble furiously, turn down heat. When it turns bright yellow and coats spoon, remove from heat. Add butter one piece at a time, stirring well and allowing each pat to melt completely before adding next.
If your lemon curd isn’t thick enough, chill in refrigerator about 15 minutes.
To assemble pavlova, gently transfer cooled meringue onto a serving platter. Gently spoon whipped cream filling into the dip, and add dollops of lemon curd to the top. Use a spoon to slightly mix the curd into the whipped cream filling. Serve immediately. I’ve found a serrated bread knife works well for cutting and serving.