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The confident cook

Recipe: For a glorious summer dessert, make individual Pavlovas topped with berries and cream

Individual Pavlovas with fresh berries
Individual Pavlovas with fresh berries(Sally Pasley Vargas for the Boston Globe)

Pavlova is the most glorious summer dessert. Named for the Russia ballerina Anna Pavlova, and first made in Australia or New Zealand (depending on whom you ask), the big, crisp meringue is so beautiful you almost don’t want to eat it. Instead of one large confection, we make small meringues here to top with lightly sweetened whipped cream and berries. A personal dessert feast.

Meringues are not difficult, but there are a few tricks to getting them crisp enough to store at room temperature for a couple of days. Start with a squeaky-clean bowl and room temperature eggs (Grade A large for this recipe). To take the chill off refrigerated eggs, put them in a bowl of warm water and let them sit for about 15 minutes. Because eggs are easier to separate when they are cold, you could also use this method: Separate cold eggs (save the yolks for another dessert) and place the whites in the bowl of your electric mixer; stainless is ideal. Set the base of the bowl in another bowl of hot water and stir for about 30 to 45 seconds, or until they feel warm to the touch.

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To make the meringue, beat the whites for a minute or two until they form soft peaks and then very slowly add the sugar. Take your time with this, so that the sugar has a chance to dissolve. If you rub a little of the mixture between your fingers, you shouldn’t feel any grit. Beat until the meringue is stiff and glossy.

For the whitest, prettiest meringues, bake them at a low temperature. They need over an hour in the oven — once they are done, the bottoms should lift easily off the parchment paper — then at least another hour to cool in the turned-off oven. Your wait for pavlova will be rewarded with a gorgeous dessert.

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Individual Pavlovas with fresh berries

Serves 6

MERINGUE

cups granulated sugar
1tablespoon cornstarch
4egg whites, at room temperature
Pinch of fine sea salt
½teaspoon cream of tartar
1teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Set the oven at 215 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a small bowl, whisk the granulated sugar and cornstarch until combined.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and salt on medium speed until foamy. Sprinkle with the cream of tartar. Continue beating just until soft peaks begin to form.

4. With the mixer still on medium speed, slowly add the granulated sugar mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time. This should take 3 to 4 minutes. When all the sugar has been added, beat for an additional 1 to 3 minutes on medium-high, or until the meringue is thick and shiny and forms stiff peaks. 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 smooth between your fingers. Beat in the vanilla.

5. With a large metal spoon, make 6 mounds of meringue, spacing them at least 2 inches apart on the baking sheet (they will expand slightly during baking). Use the back of a small spoon or an offset spatula to spread each mound into a 4-inch circle, making an indentation in the middle for the topping.

6. Bake the meringues for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until they look dry and feel crisp on the outside. When they lift easily off the parchment, they are done. Turn the oven off and let them cool slowly for 1 hour or longer in the oven, or until they are cool. Store at room temperature covered loosely with foil, for up to 2 days.

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TOPPING

2cups heavy (whipping) cream
3tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1teaspoon vanilla extract
5cups blueberries, strawberries and blackberries, or a combination
Confectioners' sugar (for sprinkling)
Few leaves fresh mint (for garnish)

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the cream, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla on medium speed, just until soft peaks form (it will be slightly underwhipped). Remove the bowl from the mixer, and whisk by hand until the cream looks stiffer.

2. Spoon some whipped cream on each of the meringues and top with berries. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar and garnish with fresh mint.
Sally Pasley Vargas


Sally Pasley Vargas can be reached at sally.p.vargas@gmail.com.