Pavlova is a scrumptious Australian/New Zealand dessert made from baked sweetened egg white meringue topped or layered with fruit and whipped cream, and the first time I made it, it was a disaster.
Early in my career I was commissioned by a local catering hall to make around 100 individual pavlovas to be filled with fruit for a dinner honoring an Australian food personality. Up to this point, the only time that I'd made anything resembling a pavlova was for a plated dessert composed of a completely crisp meringue shell holding a mousse. So off I went, full steam ahead, and baked up 100 shells that were crackly crisp from the outside to the center. To make matters worse, I practically shrink-wrapped the boxes to make sure that they would stay completely crisp. All was successful, I thought, until some months later, when I came across a truly proper recipe that explained that a good pavlova meringue is crisp on the outside with a marshmallow-y soft center. Oops. I can only imagine the sound of folks clumsily shattering though the crunchy meringue, bits of dried egg white flying everywhere.
This pavlova, however, is baked to perfection. Cake pans contain the meringues as they bake, which helps to retain a manageable shape (free-form meringues can sometimes get unruly). Keeping the temperature low ensures the palest color, and I added a small measure of ground almonds for texture. For the filling, simple macerated strawberries and billows of fresh whipped cream—both of which are only lightly sweetened in order to balance the sweet meringue. Once assembled, this dessert will only keep a short time before the juicy berries start to melt the meringue away.
About the Author: Yvonne Ruperti is a food writer, recipe developer, former bakery owner, and author of The Complete Idiot's Guide To Easy Artisan Bread. You can also watch her culinary stylings on the America's Test Kitchen television show. She presently lives in Singapore working on her new baking cookbook, and as a recipe developer for HungryGoWhere Singapore. Check out her blog: shophousecook.com . Follow Yvonne on Twitter.