It’s that time of year again, arguably one of the biggest holidays in our household. It’s my lovely wife’s birthday month, which she loves to celebrate all month long. My two eldest sons’ birthdays are also the same week as her birthday. Of course, this leads to a very busy and tasty month in our household, which thankfully includes a vacation trip somewhere and many delicious desserts.
Our love of birthdays is just another excuse to travel and enjoy a food adventure. For my 40th birthday, we spent a week in Nashville, Tenn. We had tons of fabulous culinary delights. The 10-course meal we had at The Catbird Seat on my birthday was one of the best meals we have ever enjoyed. My wife had been following a Triple Crown Bakery Instagram, and we ordered several desserts to take back to our Airbnb to enjoy. Actually, the desserts only made it back to the car where we greedily sampled everything. The two that I remember most are the flourless chocolate cake and the pavlova. She had never had pavlova before. She looked over at me inquiring if I knew how to make it. Then she was immediately annoyed that I had never made it for her before and joyfully declared that I would be making it for her birthday cake later that year.
Pavlova is a meringue you add vinegar or lemon juice to and bake at a low temperature. It is often served with sweetened whipped cream and/or pastry cream, all topped with fresh fruit. The texture of the baked meringue is so crisp and delicate on the exterior, yet marshmallow like on the inside. It is sweet, but the addition of acidity fills the flavor profile a bit more to give it a pleasant richness. When paired with the velvety whipped cream and pastry cream, in addition to the sweet and tart bite from the assorted fresh fruits ... well, it’s one of my favorite things.
Its name comes from the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, who danced in the 1920’s. While she was performing in Australia and New Zealand, the dessert was named in celebration of her talent. Both countries take credit for developing the dessert.
I have made it in many forms. That first time I made it for my wife, it was a very large multi-layered pavlova. It was messy and fabulous, so delicious. Years ago, I made a cookie size version, sandwiched together with a diplomat cream and fruit puree filling. On many occasions I have made individual versions topped with a mound of freshly whipped cream and berries. Cocoa pavlova are so satisfying, as are a long list of flavors that I could spend all day listing.
I love watching people enjoy a well-made pavlova for the first time. They are always so pleasantly surprised by how wonderful it is although it looks so simple.
- 4 egg whites
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees
- Combine egg whites and salt into a mixer, and whisk to soft glossy peaks
- Add the sugar 1/3 cup at a time
- When the meringue is stiff and glossy, fold in the cornstarch, vinegar, and vanilla
- Either pipe or mound the meringue onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper
- Place it into the oven. Immediately turn the oven down to 250 degrees, and bake for 75 minutes
- Turn the oven off and leave the oven door slightly ajar until the meringue completely cools.
- Place the meringue on a serving dish or plate. Top with sweetened whipped cream and/or pastry cream. Top with a generous amount of fresh fruit.
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla paste, or extract
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- Pinch of salt
- 4 tablespoon butter
- Bring milk, cream, and vanilla to a boil.
- Whisk eggs and vanilla together thoroughly.
- Whisk in cornstarch and salt to egg and sugar mixture.
- Slowly temper boiled milk mixture into egg mixture.
- Over medium/high heat, whisk constantly until it starts to bubble.
- Still whisking constantly, cook 1 minute longer.
- Immediately transfer to a clean bowl.
- Whisk in butter until melted.
- Place over a bowl of ice and whisk until cooled significantly.
- Store in airtight container, refrigerate.
Lincoln Land Community College offers credit programs in Culinary Arts, Hospitality Management and Baking/Pastry, and non-credit cooking and food classes through LLCC Community Education.
Cooking or food questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.