After making October’s candy custard, I was left with an abundance of unused egg whites. Of course I could have done a few things with them… egg white omelets, macarons or meringues… but I decided to try something I’d never had before: Pavlovas.
Pavlovas may seem intimidating at first, but are actually quite simple to make. If you can whip egg whites, then you can make a pavlova. You simply whip egg whites to a stiff peak with a bit of sugar and a dash of vanilla, spread it into several small or one large round on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and pop it in the oven to bake away!
As with all egg white recipes, it is imperative that your bowl and beaters are free of any fat or debris prior to whipping, or your egg whites will not reach their light and fluffy potential. We help the egg whites along in this recipe with a touch of cream of tartar and a smidge of corn starch. Start slow at first, until the egg whites become foamy, then turn it up to medium to start adding some real volume to the eggs. To achieve the magical “crispy on the outside while soft of the inside” texture, you will want to beat the eggs to soft peaks before adding your sugar. We then put them in a very low-temperature oven to just slightly “bake” the exterior of the pavlovas while keeping the inside nice and chewy.
Once baked, allow your pavlovas to cool for a few hours in the oven. Once cooled, your pavlovas will emerge with a crisp, exterior shell surrounding a chewy, marshmallowy interior. Once topped with freshly-whipped cream and fruit, the dessert becomes almost ethereal. Because the pavlova and berries are already sweet, I just very slightly sweeten the whipped cream so it still provides a touch of contrast between the layers. If you like, you may add more sugar than what is called for. If you don’t have powdered sugar, regular granulated sugar is fine, too.
These are a great candidate for dinner parties and gatherings not only because they look absolutely gorgeous, but their super easy to throw together, they can they be made ahead of time, and can even become an interactive dessert if you let your guests choose their own toppings.
- 5 large egg whites (about 165 grams)
- 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons corn starch
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 pint fresh strawberries, washed, hulled, and sliced
- 2 to 4 tablespoons granulated sugar, depending on preference
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Place oven racks in top and lower thirds of the oven. Preheat oven to 200F degrees and line two half-sheet baking pans with parchment.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar and corn starch.
- Using beaters or a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium-low speed until they become foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue mixing, increasing the speed to medium-high until the egg whites become thick and white, reaching the soft-peak stage. At this point, if you were to scoop some of the egg whites out with a spatula they would still flow off of the spatula. Any "peaks" You make would fall over and not keep their point.
- Slowly add 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar mixture and continue beating until incorporated. Add remaining sugar in a slow stream and add the vanilla extract. Continue beating until the egg whites thicken and reach stiff peaks. At this point, if you were to scoop some egg whites out with a spatula, the egg whites would stay on the spatula and hold their shape and any peaks would stay pointy.
- Mound the egg white mixture into 8 equal-sized rounds, 4 on each baking sheet, leaving about 4 inches in between each mound.
- Spread out slightly, making a slight indent in the center of each for the toppings to "sit" in, and leaving about 1 to 2 inches between each. They will stay in whatever shape they are in when you put them in the oven, so don't expect the mixture to spread or settle much (though it may slightly poof a bit).
- Bake pavlovas for 1 1/2 hours, rotating the baking sheets halfway through the baking time. The meringues should have smooth, dry, slightly shiny exteriors. Turn off the oven and allow the pavlova to cool in the oven for a hour or two, then remove to finish cooling on the counter. You can leave them in the oven to cool completely, but I usually need my oven back by then.
- This can be done up to 2 days ahead of time (they technically last longer, but they aren't as good as time goes on).
- Mix the sliced berries with sugar and lemon juice. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use (can be done up to 1 day ahead of time).
- Beat cream in a large bowl with an electric mixer until the cream thickens and the beaters start to leave a trail in the cream. Add powdered sugar and vanilla extract and continue beating until the cream this thick and almost doubled in volume, until it reaches a soft-peak stage.
- Refrigerate until ready to use. This can be made up to one day ahead of time, but is better to make the day of.
- Pavlovas should be assembled right before eating. If the toppings hang out for too long on top of the meringue shell, it will ruin the structure of the pavlova.
- Right before serving, top meringues with whipped cream and berries (or any other toppings your heart desires).
Make sure your bowl and beater(s) are free of any fat/residue prior to whipping your egg whites!
Feel free to get creative with toppings - mixing some cocoa, coffee, or berry into the whipped cream would be a great place to start. A drizzle of chocolate sauce or caramel wouldn't be a bad idea on, either!