Weekend Project: Make a Pavlova!

Pavlovas can be tricky to make when it's hot and humid outside, but they are such a good dessert to serve with fresh summer fruit that it's worth the effort! They're light and airy, sweet without being too sweet, and sure to please both kids and adults. Shall we give it a try this weekend?

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What is a Pavlova?

The pavlova is named after Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova and the original recipe hails from either Australia or New Zealand (we won't get into that debate!). They're a popular dessert in those countries and in England, but haven't quite made the jump over to the United States - though we have no idea why since they're so good!

Pavlovas are essentially one giant meringue cookie. Because it's so large, the meringue never fully dries out the way that smaller cookies do. Instead, the outside shell is crisp and crunchy and the inside is like soft marshmallow. The meringue is usually topped with a layer of whipped cream or fruit curd and then served with fresh fruit.

You can make miniature, individual pavlovas, too! These end up being more like the airy meringue cookies we know and are just as good topped with whipped cream and fruit.

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Basic Meringue for Pavlova

This will make one large or two smaller pavlovas. The basic ratio for meringues is 4 tablespoons of sugar per egg white, so feel free to increase or decrease the amount as you need to.

4 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup granulated sugar, or 1/2 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Pre-heat the oven to 275°. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silpat, and set it to the side.

Use a standing or hand-held electric mixer and begin whipping the egg whites. Start with the mixer at a slow speed and gradually work up to medium-high. When the whites are just barely foamy, add the cream of tarter.

When the whites have reached a soft peak (they hold their form, but the edges melt back into themselves), begin adding the sugar a little bit at a time. Continue whipping until the meringue holds a stiff peak (the edges stay firm).

Gently pour the meringue onto the baking sheet so it forms a dome a few inches high. You can leave it with its natural blobs and swirls, or you can smooth it out with a spatula for a more rustic look. Bake for about 45 minutes until the outside of the meringue is firm and dry to the touch. Turn off the oven and leave the meringue inside until it has cooled completely or over night.

Assembling the Pavlova

Pavlovas can be made with whatever ingredients that sound good to you, that you have in your kitchen, or that are in season at the time! There's no wrong way to go about it. Here are a few of our favorites:

Suggested Toppings - whipped cream, lemon curd, melted chocolate, caramel syrup, ice cream, fruit puree, stewed fruit, fruit jam, fresh berries, cut fresh fruit, powdered sugar

Meringue doesn't keep as well in the summer because sugar absorbs the moisture from the humid air and the meringue begins to soften. For this reason, it's best to assemble and eat the pavolva the same day its made. If you have to make it the day before, store the meringue in an air tight container in a low kitchen cupboard. You can also make the meringue right before bed and leave the meringue in the cooling oven over night.

Do you like pavlovas? What are some of your favorite ways to prepare it?

Related: Fast and Easy Sweets: 9 Best Quick Desserts

(Images: Flickr members Foodista and Yabby licensed under Creative Commons)