A snow-white pavlova billowing with swirls of cream and juicy berries is a dessert worthy of a holiday dinner and an entertainer's dream. Pavlovas are refined, yet more-ish, dramatic yet light, and a festive dessert to serve following a rich and heavy meal. They can also be prepped in advance and assembled before serving, which makes them ideal for your next holiday or dinner party.
Varieties of meringue abound. You can simply make a traditional pavlova with a vanilla-infused white meringue topped with fresh fruit. Or riff a bit and make, say, a chocolate-tinged meringue crowned with cocoa-infused cream, with raspberries as garnish -- along with, well, more chocolate. Or keep it fresh and nutty and make this recipe, which adds streaks of ground pistachios and orange to the meringue and cream, and finishes with a shower of fresh raspberries, blackberries and more pistachios.
Meringues may seem intimidating to make, but they are, in fact, easy to prepare. The key is to abide by a few simple techniques to ensure a crisp meringue that yields to a slightly soft and gooey center. Bring your eggs to room temperature before using, and make sure that the egg whites are clean of any yolk. A simple tip is to individually crack each egg into a small bowl before adding it to the mixing bowl, so if an egg yolk breaks it won't impact the clean egg whites. Then beat the eggs at medium-high speed, not high speed, to slowly build their structure without overwhisking. Use super-fine baking sugar (or blitz granulated sugar in a food processor until very fine). Add the sugar to the meringue one spoonful at a time, mixing until glossy peaks form.
The meringue can be shaped in a circle or freeform. It can also be divided into smaller individual meringues. Slowly bake the meringue in a low-heat oven to ensure even baking and prevent coloring. It's important to not open the oven door while the meringue is baking, or it may crack; use the oven light to gauge coloring. Then turn off the oven, and let the meringue cool completely without removing it from the oven. The entire process, including cooling, will take several hours, but part of that time requires no work from you. (Tip: You can bake the meringue the night before serving and leave it in the oven overnight until assembling the next day.)
Finally, pay attention to the weather. Rainy or very humid weather can prevent the meringue from crisping, as it may absorb some of the moisture in the air.
This meringue recipe is adapted from a Nigella Lawson recipe, and the addition of pistachios is inspired by a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe.
PISTACHIO PAVLOVA WITH RASPBERRIES AND BLACKBERRIES
Active time: 30 minutes
Total time: 1 hour and 30 minutes, plus cooling time
Yield: Serves 8
• 1/3 cup shelled pistachios
• 2 teaspoons plus 1 1/2 cups superfine sugar
• 6 large egg whites, room temperature
Pinch of kosher salt
• 2 teaspoons cornstarch
• 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, divided
• 2 cups heavy cream
• 1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar, plus more for sprinkling
• 1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest, plus more for garnish
• 6 ounces fresh blackberries
• 6 ounces fresh raspberries
1. Place the pistachios and 2 teaspoons sugar in a food processor. Pulse to finely chop (not to dust — small pieces should be visible).
2. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. (The oven temperature will be reduced as soon as the meringue goes in.)
3. Add the egg whites and salt to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until foamy. With the mixer running, slowly add the 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Continue to beat until glossy, stiff peaks form.
4. Sprinkle the cornstarch, vinegar and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla over the meringue and gently fold in with a spatula. Sprinkle about 2/3 of the chopped pistachios over the meringue and gently fold once or twice more to streak the meringue with the nuts.
5. Spread the meringue on the prepared baking sheet in the shape of a circle, about 10 inches in diameter, with the edges slightly raised.
6. Transfer to the oven and immediately lower the temperature to 250 degrees. Bake for 1 hour, then turn off the oven and let the meringue cool completely without opening the door. This will take 2 to 3 hours.
7. To assemble the pavlova, combine the cream, confectioners' sugar and remaining vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whip until traces of the whisk are apparent. Add the orange zest and continue to whip until soft peaks form.
8. Spread the cream in the center of the cooled meringue. Top with the berries and scatter the remaining pistachios over and around the meringue. Garnish with additional orange zest and sprinkle with additional confectioner's sugar. Serve immediately.
Lynda Balslev is an award-winning writer, cookbook author, and recipe developer based in northern California. Visit TasteFood at TasteFoodblog.com.