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EASTER DINNER

Recipe: Bake these beautiful, individual Pavlova meringues with fresh berries for the Easter menu

Individual Pavlovas with Fresh Berries.Sally Pasley Vargas

Serves 8

Delicate clouds of crisp meringues with soft centers are stunning little nests for spoonfuls of whipped cream topped with berries. New Zealanders and Australians argue endlessly over the origins of the dessert, named after the late-19th-century ballerina Anna Pavlova. While the recipe isn't fussy -- you just spoon the meringue onto parchment-lined baking sheets and make shallow indentations in the rounds -- they do need a little TLC on their way to the oven. Many recipes call for caster sugar, which is very finely ground granulated sugar; it dissolves seamlessly into the egg whites and prevents them from weeping. Since it's hard to find, you can do it at home. Use a food processor to grind granulated sugar to achieve the same results. Another tricky bit is that despite their labels, all eggs labeled "large" are not the same in weight or volume. For the best sugar-to-egg proportion, measure the egg whites before using them (you need 1/2 cup of whites). Before you separate the eggs, place the whole cold eggs in a bowl of warm water for about 15 minutes to warm them. This will boost their volume when whipped. Finally, the meringues take a long time to bake and then cool in the oven, so for convenience, make them in the early evening and let them cool in the turned-off oven overnight. Top with whipped cream (no need to sweeten it) and fresh berries. Each guest gets a beautiful little springtime dessert.

MERINGUE

teaspoons cornstarch
1teaspoon distilled white vinegar
4 eggs, soaked in warm water for 15 minutes (to make 1/2 cup egg whites)
¾cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Pinch of salt

1. Set the oven at 275 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a small bowl, stir the cornstarch and vinegar until smooth.

3. Separate the eggs. Pour the whites into a measuring cup as you separate them. You will need 1/2 cup egg whites. Reserve the egg yolks and extra egg whites, if there are any, for another recipe.

4. In a food processor, work the sugar for 1 1/2 minutes, or until it is very finely ground.

5. In an electric mixer with the whisk attachment on medium speed, beat the egg whites and salt until the whites are foamy and start to form soft peaks. Add the sugar 2 tablespoons at a time, and beat for 30 seconds after each addition. Don’t rush this step. When all the sugar has been added, beat for 1 to 2 minutes more, or until the meringue is thick and shiny and forms stiff peaks. Beat in the cornstarch and vinegar mixture. Dip your index finger into the meringue and rub it between your finger and thumb. If it feels gritty, continue to beat for 1 minute more, or until it feels perfectly smooth between your fingers and all the sugar has dissolved.

6. With a finger, place 4 small dabs of meringue on all four corners of each baking sheet to anchor the parchment paper.

7. With an ice cream scoop or 2 large spoons, spoon 8 rounds (about 1/2 cup each) of meringue on the parchment, setting 4 rounds about 3 inches apart on each baking sheet. Use the back of a small spoon to create a shallow indentation in the middle of each meringue.

8. Turn the oven temperature down to 200 degrees. Bake the meringues for 2 hours, switching the position of the baking sheets from back to front halfway through baking. Turn the oven off. Leave the meringues to cool completely in the oven. To store, cover loosely with foil and leave at room temperature for up to 2 days.

FILLING

1cup heavy cream
½teaspoon vanilla extract
2cups raspberries, sliced strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, or a combination
Confectioners' sugar (for sprinkling)

1. In an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the cream and vanilla just until the cream forms soft peaks (slightly under-whipped.) Remove the bowl from the mixer, and whisk by hand to reach almost stiff peaks.

2. Spoon the cream into the meringues. Arrange the berries on top. Sift confectioners' sugar lightly over the berries.

Sally Pasley Vargas

Serves 8

Delicate clouds of crisp meringues with soft centers are stunning little nests for spoonfuls of whipped cream topped with berries. New Zealanders and Australians argue endlessly over the origins of the dessert, named after the late-19th-century ballerina Anna Pavlova. While the recipe isn't fussy -- you just spoon the meringue onto parchment-lined baking sheets and make shallow indentations in the rounds -- they do need a little TLC on their way to the oven. Many recipes call for caster sugar, which is very finely ground granulated sugar; it dissolves seamlessly into the egg whites and prevents them from weeping. Since it's hard to find, you can do it at home. Use a food processor to grind granulated sugar to achieve the same results. Another tricky bit is that despite their labels, all eggs labeled "large" are not the same in weight or volume. For the best sugar-to-egg proportion, measure the egg whites before using them (you need 1/2 cup of whites). Before you separate the eggs, place the whole cold eggs in a bowl of warm water for about 15 minutes to warm them. This will boost their volume when whipped. Finally, the meringues take a long time to bake and then cool in the oven, so for convenience, make them in the early evening and let them cool in the turned-off oven overnight. Top with whipped cream (no need to sweeten it) and fresh berries. Each guest gets a beautiful little springtime dessert.

MERINGUE

teaspoons cornstarch
1teaspoon distilled white vinegar
4 eggs, soaked in warm water for 15 minutes (to make 1/2 cup egg whites)
¾cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Pinch of salt

1. Set the oven at 275 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a small bowl, stir the cornstarch and vinegar until smooth.

3. Separate the eggs. Pour the whites into a measuring cup as you separate them. You will need 1/2 cup egg whites. Reserve the egg yolks and extra egg whites, if there are any, for another recipe.

4. In a food processor, work the sugar for 1 1/2 minutes, or until it is very finely ground.

5. In an electric mixer with the whisk attachment on medium speed, beat the egg whites and salt until the whites are foamy and start to form soft peaks. Add the sugar 2 tablespoons at a time, and beat for 30 seconds after each addition. Don’t rush this step. When all the sugar has been added, beat for 1 to 2 minutes more, or until the meringue is thick and shiny and forms stiff peaks. Beat in the cornstarch and vinegar mixture. Dip your index finger into the meringue and rub it between your finger and thumb. If it feels gritty, continue to beat for 1 minute more, or until it feels perfectly smooth between your fingers and all the sugar has dissolved.

6. With a finger, place 4 small dabs of meringue on all four corners of each baking sheet to anchor the parchment paper.

7. With an ice cream scoop or 2 large spoons, spoon 8 rounds (about 1/2 cup each) of meringue on the parchment, setting 4 rounds about 3 inches apart on each baking sheet. Use the back of a small spoon to create a shallow indentation in the middle of each meringue.

8. Turn the oven temperature down to 200 degrees. Bake the meringues for 2 hours, switching the position of the baking sheets from back to front halfway through baking. Turn the oven off. Leave the meringues to cool completely in the oven. To store, cover loosely with foil and leave at room temperature for up to 2 days.

FILLING

1cup heavy cream
½teaspoon vanilla extract
2cups raspberries, sliced strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, or a combination
Confectioners' sugar (for sprinkling)

1. In an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the cream and vanilla just until the cream forms soft peaks (slightly under-whipped.) Remove the bowl from the mixer, and whisk by hand to reach almost stiff peaks.

2. Spoon the cream into the meringues. Arrange the berries on top. Sift confectioners' sugar lightly over the berries.Sally Pasley Vargas