This snowy white pavlova with swirls of cream and juicy berries is a dessert worthy of a holiday dinner and an entertaining dream. Pavlova is sophisticated but more dramatic and light, and is a festive dessert to serve after a rich and heavy meal. They can also be prepared in advance and assembled before serving, making them perfect for your next holiday or dinner party.
There are many varieties of meringue. You can simply prepare a traditional pavlova using white meringue filled with vanilla and topped with fresh fruit. Or cut it down a notch and make, say, a chocolate-tinged meringue crowned with a cocoa-infused cream, with raspberries as a garnish — plus more chocolate. Or keep it fresh and nutty and make this recipe that adds slices of ground pistachios and orange to meringue and cream, and finishes with a drizzle of fresh raspberries, blackberries and more pistachios.
Making meringue may seem intimidating, but it’s actually easy to make. The key is to adhere to a few simple techniques to ensure a crisp meringue that results in a soft, slightly gooey center. Bring eggs to room temperature before using, and make sure the egg whites are clean of any yolks. A simple tip is to crack each egg individually into a small bowl before adding them to the mixing bowl, so if the yolk breaks it won’t affect the clean egg whites. Then beat the eggs at medium to high speed, not high speed, to slowly build their structure without over-beating. Use very fine baking sugar (or granulated sugar in a food processor until very fine). Add sugar to the meringue one tablespoon at a time, mixing until shiny peaks form.
The meringue can be shaped into a circle or freeform. They can also be divided into smaller individual meringues. Bake the meringue slowly in a low oven to ensure even baking and prevent colouring. It is important not to open the oven door while the meringue is baking, otherwise it may break; Use an oven light to measure color. 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 does not require any work from you. (Tip: You can bake the meringue the night before serving and leave it in the oven overnight to set for the next day.)
Finally, pay attention to the weather. Rainy or very humid weather can prevent the meringue from crisping because it may absorb some of the moisture in the air.
This meringue recipe is adapted from Lawson’s nigella recipe, and the addition of pistachios is inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipe.
Pistachio pavlova with raspberries and blackberries
Active time: 30 minutes
Total time: 1 hour and 30 minutes, plus cooling time
• 1/3 cup peeled pistachios
• 2 teaspoons plus 1 1/2 cups fine sugar
• 6 large egg whites, room temperature
A pinch of kosher salt
• 2 teaspoons starch
• 1 teaspoon white vinegar
• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, divided
• 2 cups heavy cream
• 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar, plus more for sprinkling
• 1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel, plus more for garnish
• 6 ounces fresh blackberries
• 6 ounces fresh raspberries
1. Place the pistachios and two teaspoons of sugar in a food processor. Finely chop the pulse (not into dust – small pieces should be visible).
2. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. (The oven temperature will drop once the meringue is in.)
3. Add the egg whites and salt to the bowl of the electric mixer fitted with the whisk. Beat on medium-high speed until foamy. With the mixer running, slowly add 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Continue beating until glossy and stiff peaks form.
4. Sprinkle the cornstarch, vinegar, and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla over the meringue and fold gently with a spoon. Sprinkle about 2/3 of the chopped pistachios over the meringue and gently fold once or twice to intersperse the meringue with the nuts.
5. Spread the meringue on the prepared baking sheet in a circle about 10 inches in diameter, with the edges slightly raised.
6. Place it in the oven and immediately lower the temperature to 250 degrees. Bake for an 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, mix the cream, powdered sugar and remaining vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat until whisk marks appear. Add orange zest and continue beating until soft peaks form.
8. Spread the cream in the middle of the cooled meringue. Top with the berries, then sprinkle the remaining pistachios over and around the meringue. Garnish with additional orange peel and sprinkle with additional confectioners’ sugar. Serve immediately.
Linda Balslev is an award-winning writer, cookbook author, and recipe developer based in Northern California. Visit TasteFood at TasteFoodblog.com.