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Summer pavlova for a grand finale

June 8, 2011

At the end of a summer meal, I crave something that matches the season—something light and fun; refreshing as a dash through sprinklers; and, like any good summer mystery novel, imbued with a touch of drama. Is that too much to ask from a single dessert? Not if that dessert is what I’ve decided to call the summer pavlova.

Australians might find me a little cheeky, taking liberties with their creation. In my defense, I think I’ve stayed faithful to the spirit of the dish. With its layers of billowy meringue, whipped cream, and fruit, a pavlova is ethereal and dramatic. It’s fitting that it was named in honor of a prima ballerina.

The drama in a pavlova comes from the play of textures. Traditionally, it’s whipped cream that offers a counterpoint to meringue. Chasing the summer muse, I decided to try ice cream instead. What I ended up with was an even more dramatic texture contrast, and the extra satisfaction of something frozen. The crispy-chewy, light-as-air meringue shattered with a satisfying crunch when we cut down into it with our spoons. The vanilla ice cream on top was cool and smooth. This was a summer pavlova.

Whether you go the ice cream route or not, what will make your pavlova feel irresistibly summery is choosing the perfect fruit. It should be ripe, juicy and fragrant. Blackberries look striking against the  white base. Peaches are also in their prime. If you want to stay true to the dish’s origins, try tropical fruits such as kiwi, passion fruit or mango.

A pavlova often arrives at the table on a large serving platter, provoking a round of ooohs and aaahs before it’s divvied up with a sure hand. But I think individual pavlovas have their own charm and are easier to serve. Just bake the meringue into small nest-shaped rounds. A final variation: I added a hint of almond to the meringue, which is a nice touch if you’re using blackberries or peaches.

Elegant and versatile, pavlovas delight the senses. And they’re easy: You can bake the meringues ahead of time and store them for over a week, so it’s easy to improvise a summer treat.

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Summer pavlova

Meringues (makes 12)

4 egg whites at room temperature

¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

¾ cup sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon almond extract

½ teaspoon cider vinegar

Heat the oven to 200F. Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.

Beat the egg whites (by hand or with a mixer) until they are frothy (less than one minute). Add the cream of tartar and beat until they are thick and form soft peaks. Sprinkle in half the sugar, the vanilla and almond extract, and the vinegar. Beat until incorporated, then fold in the remaining sugar. Scoop onto the parchment paper with a 1/4-cup measure and use a spoon to
form an indentation in the center.

Bake for about 1 ½ hours, or until the outsides are firm and smooth. Turn off the oven and let the meringues cool inside for several hours.
Store in an airtight container.

To prepare the blackberry topping: Rinse two 12-oz baskets of blackberries. Gently toss them in a bowl with 1 tablespoon of sugar and set aside at least 30 minutes before serving.

To assemble the pavlovas: Fill each meringue shell with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (or whipped cream) and top with a spoonful of the berries. You can garnish with a sprig of mint (optional) and serve.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. marilyn bourbon permalink
    June 8, 2011 12:17 pm

    oh my goodness. my mouth is watering. i want some!!!!! it seems the perfect way to stay cool and not
    overfed in the summer heat.

  2. Lamumsy permalink
    August 13, 2011 3:11 am

    Just got back to your blog again, and as always, I discovered a tempting inspiration with mouthwatering photos. But this time I actually needed the pavlova idea LAST night. Our simple but ever-delicious dessert of mixed berries on vanilla ice cream would’ve been raised to another level. And it sounds easy too, using whatever fruit your heart desires and with the meringue(s) made ahead of time. Where has this recipe been all my life?

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