Genève’s Kitchen

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A Pavlovian Treat

May 12th, 2006 · 8 Comments

pavlova.JPGOne of the main trends that I notice about my cooking is that I gravitate towards simple, easy, low maintenance dishes. Every now and then, however, I like to fiddle around in the kitchen and today I did just that. I’d seen many food challenges on the Food Network and I’d watched enough shows depicting pastry chefs to be intrigued by their craft. So, I visited my local Sur La Table and bought a pastry bag and tip and I couldn’t wait to try my hand at piping.

I decided to make meringues for my maiden attempt with the whole pastry bag thing. Once I came up with the idea of meringues, my mind began to wander. I thought of the lovely pavlovas that I’d seen Nigella Lawson create, and the wonderful one I recently enjoyed at Balthazar with my dear friend Karen in New York City. Then I had the epiphany to actually try my hand at making them myself. Pavlovas are a delicious contrast in textures and flavors. The three elements of a pavlova are 1) the meringue base, 2) the topping – usually fruit, and 3) the whipped cream. The meringue is crunchy, airy, light, and slightly chewy while the fruit is a little tart, and the whipped cream is sweet and rich in flavor. The beauty of pavlovas is that preparing each step is incredibly easy. The only thing that requires a bit more effort is the making of the meringue. And actually, come to think of it, you don’t need to pipe the meringue to make these pavlovas. I’m just doing it here as an excuse to try out my new purchase.

This is one of those desserts that generates a “wow” from people because it looks so impressive. The secret, as you’ll see, is that it only takes a little effort.

Mini Pavlovas with Stewed Berries (Meringue with Stewed Berries and Whipped Cream)

For the meringues I looked at my old Fanny Farmer cookbook and used this as a starting point. I then took a few liberties. The first is to add a 1/4 teaspoon of white wine vinegar to the meringue mixture. I know that sounds totally bizarre, but Nigella recommends that white wine vinegar makes these meringues more chewy, which is a quality that I very much like in my meringues.

Another little tip: if you rub the inside of the bowl you use to beat the egg whites with a lemon slice, it will make for more fluffy meringues. The logic there is that egg whites are incredibly sensitive and if there is any fatty residue in the bowl–even though it may appear clean–it could prevent the egg whites from acheiving maximum fluffiness, which is what we’re looking for here. I know this all sounds bizarre but the egg whites are the only temperamental part of the recipe, I promise!


2 egg whites
8 Tablespoons superfine sugar
1 Teaspoon vanilla
1/4 Teaspoon white wine vinegar
I pinch of salt

This will make about four 4-5 inch mini meringues. If you want you can make smaller bite-sized ones instead.

1) Beat the egg whites adding the sugar a tablespoon at a time and once all combined add in the vanilla and vinegar. Beat until mixture forms firm peaks. Use an electric mixer here…

2) No pastry bag: on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper put a dollop of the meringue that is about 4-5 inches in diameter. With your fingers or the back of a spoon make a little well in the middle.

With pastry bag: I used a 21 inch bag with a 865 tip but so long as you use a relatively large tip it doesn’t really matter exactly which one you use. You’ll want to begin by fitting the tip into the bottom of the bag – you might need to cut the bottom of the bag to allow the tip to fit. Then fold down the top of the bag so that you can fill the bag with the meringue mixture. Once you’ve got all of the mixture into the bag pull up the part of the bag that you’d originally folded down and twist it closed. The idea is to work the bag by holding it at the top and squeezing down. (You can experiment with it by piping on a plate or clean counter and then just put the meringue back into the bag again.) I made round spiral disks and then went around the perimeter once to create a rim – essentially making a little bowl for the whipped cream and berries. (I was only going to be making two pavlovas so with the rest of the mixture I just made meringue “kisses” which are just little blobs that I piped from the bag but they look pretty since I was using a star tip.)
3) Next you’ll bake these in 250F oven for 1 hour and then turn off the oven but do not open it for 3 hours. Actually the Fanny Farmer book said to leave them in there for 6 hours but I didn’t leave myself enough time to do that so I took them out after 3 and they were delish. The only thing that was strange was that they weren’t white – they were a lovely soft caramel color and they tasted slightly caramel-like. I don’t know if baking them for less time would resolve this? Any thoughts/suggestions welcome!

Stewed Berries

1) I keep frozen berries in my freezer – they work great for these stewed berries and they are very convenient to have on hand for an easy, quick dessert or to add to smoothies etc.

I add the berries to a pot (factoring about a 1/4 cup of berries per person), add a few tablespoons of water so that the bottom of the pan isn’t dry and a tablespoon of sugar, and put it over medium heat until it starts to boil at which point I turn the heat to low and just let it simmer away for about 5 minutes.

Whipped Cream

1) Put about a 1/2 Cup of heavy whipping cream into a bowl and using a beater mix until it starts to thicken. Add a 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla and a teaspoon of sugar and mix until it forms peaks and is stiff.

Assembling the Pavlova: With the meringue base on your desired serving plate add a dollup of whipped cream, then spoon over the berry mixture (I sometimes like to add some fresh uncooked berries here if I happen to have some on hand), and then add another little dollup of whipped cream on top to finish or dust with some confectioners sugar.


Tags: Dessert · Entertaining

8 responses so far ↓

  • Sherri // May 13, 2006 at 8:47 am

    You have outdone yourself ! These looks amazing !
    YUM I am all over them post 5/28 :)

  • Geneve // May 13, 2006 at 11:01 am

    Thanks Sherri! Too bad you don’t live closer so I could reciprocate and invite you and Lee to a dinner chez nous!

  • Ivonne // May 13, 2006 at 7:58 pm

    Good for you for challenging yourself and trying something new. Your pavlova looks gorgeous! Wish I had some!

  • anneke mayan // May 15, 2006 at 11:20 am

    Once again, I am drooling as I look at the picture….Did you know that making a meringue does not work if the weather is humid? Did not believe it myself, tried it and it did not work!!!!

  • Monique // May 30, 2006 at 10:06 am

    Lovely picture and recipe! I’m glad you enjoyed your first experience as a “piper,” I was first introduced to the tool when I was a professional muffin decorator at the Gingerbread Construction Company. But enough about me… I wanted to add a tidbit of useless information to your blog. The legerity with which Anna Matveyevna Pavlova, a Russian Prima Ballerina, performed has been widely acknowledged as the inspiration for this desert.
    Keep up the great work…

  • gail // Jun 21, 2006 at 4:22 am

    To keep the egg whites white during the prolonged cooking time, try adding plain white vinegar rather than white wine vingar.

  • gail // Jun 21, 2006 at 4:24 am

    Also, I just noticed that you baked them for six hours?? No, no, no… Bake in the bottom of the oven for 30 minutes at 285 F. Reduce oven temperature to
    250 F for another 45 minutes and then turn oven off and leave the pavlova in there until the oven is cool. Cheers!