After eating this dessert, The Husband had to make a painful admission. He says this dish tops what has been his favorite dessert for years.
I have to give Ina Garten credit for introducing me to Pavlovas. Not formally of course. It’s not like the Husband and I are getting invitations to enjoy a charcuterie plate and champagne in the garden with her and Jeffrey in the Hamptons. But once upon a time, I was a regular fan of her Food Network show The Barefoot Contessa. This was before The Husband and I decided she was getting a little too hoity-toity for our taste.
Ina made these simple baked meringues several years ago and I have never forgotten them. Growing up in the South, the only meringue I was familiar with was the kind that came on top of a pie. These were baked, light as a feather, with a crispy outside and tender inside.
Just a little tidbit of trivia for you – this dessert was created for Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova during one of her tours to Australia and New Zealand in the 1920s. Hence the name.
I don’t know why, but I just kind of assumed pavlovas would be hard to make and never seriously considered making them on my own. But remember what I said in my last post about challenging myself to try new things? Turns out, these were not nearly as hard as I thought. They just take a little time, so plan ahead accordingly. Good news is, they can be made in advance and will keep for a couple days.
If you’ve never had these before, you may be wondering what they taste like. The outside is crispy and melts in your mouth almost instantly. It reminded us both of freeze dried ice cream. The inside was like a toasted marshmallow. Top it off with whipped cream and fresh sliced strawberries and you’ve got what The Husband described as, “Sex on a plate.”
Just imagine how impressed your Valentine will be when you present them with one of these fluffy meringues piled high and dripping with strawberry sauce. It’s so different from the old standy – chocolate. If you’ve ever made regular meringue for a pie, chances are you could totally pull these off.
For the pavolvas:
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 5 egg whites room temperature
- ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- For the strawberry sauce:
- 4 cups fresh or thawed frozen strawberries
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 vanilla bean
- Whipped cream
In a small saucepan, whisk together water and cornstarch. Heat over medium heat just until mixture begins to thicken, about 2 minutes. Transfer mixture to a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, beat egg whites on medium speed until the surface begins to form bubbles. Add the cream of tartar and continue to beat until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes.
Keep the mixer running and add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time. Once all the sugar has been added, increase mixer speed to high and beat until stiff peaks form and egg whites become glossy, about 3-4 minutes.
Add the cornstarch mixture and the vanilla. Beat until stiff peaks form again, about 1-2 minutes more.
Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Postion oven racks to the bottom third of the oven.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Spoon the meringue into twelve ½-cup portions onto the prepared cookie sheets. Using the back of a spoon, form a small indention into the top of each meringue.
Carefully place the two cookie sheets in the oven and bake for about 45 minutes, or until the outside is dry and crisp on the outside. Do not remove the meringues from the oven. Turn off the oven, leave the door ajar, and allow the meringues to slowly cool inside the oven for about 1 hour.
If using fresh strawberries, slice berries into quarters.
Place berries in a medium mixing bowl. Pour sugar over berries and stir to combine.
Using a sharp paring knife, split the vanilla bean down the middle. Scrap out the inside of the bean into the bowl with the strawberries. Stir to combine and let the mixture sit for about 30 minutes.
Transfer mixture to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium to medium high heat and simmer until juice begins to thicken, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
Place one cooled meringue on a plate. Top with whipped cream. Drizzle strawberry sauce over top.