Pavlova is a favorite Irish dessert, with fresh fruit and whipped cream used to decorate a meringue base. It’s crisp, sweet crust contrasts deliciously with a soft, light center.
Pavlova was created in either Australia or New Zealand in the 1920’s to commemorate a visit by Anna Pavlova, the famous Russian ballet dancer. A taste for this delicate dessert spread throughout the United Kingdom and it’s commonwealth, and was even embraced by the Irish.
I know many cooks shy away from making this delicacy because of the slow, complicated process required to achieve a perfect meringue consistency.
When I first made pavlovas I stuck to the step-by-step recipe of olden days. Using this tried and true approach I beat egg whites with cream of tartar until stiff, then added sugar spoon-by-spoon in a time-consuming way. Then I carefully folded in corn starch and white vinegar, before creatively piping the finished product onto a baking sheet.
Worry no more. I have simplified the whole process.
I now make my pavlovas using a one-step, toss-it-in-the-bowl, and beat-it-all-up method. My pavlovas turn out just as good today as when I used the pain-staking technique of old.
Here is my easy recipe for mini pavlovas, or pavlova nests as some may like to call them.
- 4 large egg whites
- 1 and 1/4 cups of sugar
- 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon of corn starch
- 2 teaspoons of cream of tartar
- 1 teaspoon of white vinegar
- 4 tablespoons of boiling water
- 2 cups of heavy whipping cream (to decorate)
- 2 tablespoons of confectioners sugar (to sweeten the cream)
- fresh fruit of choice (to decorate)
Before getting started pre-heat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
Separate the egg whites and place them in a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar.
Toss in the vanilla, white vinegar, cream of tartar and corn starch.
Add 4 tablespoons of boiling water, careful not to burn your finger tips. This, I believe, is the secret ingredient for successful one-step pavlovas.
Set the mixer beating and while you are waiting you can prepare the baking sheets. If you don’t have a stand alone mixer and need to hold yours, make sure you prepare the baking sheets before beating the meringue.
Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Take a cup or a glass and mark the perimeter with a pen. Create 6 circles on each baking sheet 2 to 3 inches apart, for a total of 12 mini-pavlova nests.
Next turn the paper upside-down, so the pen does not leach into the meringue mixture. The guiding circles should still be visible.
The time required to beat the egg white mixture varies depending upon the power of your mixer. Mine took 7 minutes, but my mixer is pretty powerful.
You can tell it is ready when it becomes very thick, and the egg white forms stiff peaks when the beater is removed. It should be a glossy, satiny white, the meringue points looking like snowy mountain peaks. (Can you tell I love to bake, when I dream that my meringue mixture looks like the Alps.)
Next, spoon the egg white mixture onto the pre-marked circles. A large mixing spoon helps divide the mixture into 12 equal portions.
Now comes the fun. Using the back of a dessert spoon, start smoothing the upper surface of each nest working from the center out to the edges.
Create a little lip on the perimeter of each nest. This will help hold the cream and fruit when you decorate the pavlovas later.
Work all 12 mounds into a nest shape.
Bake both trays together in the pre-heated 250 degree Fahrenheit oven for 60 minutes, then reduce the heat to 225 degrees for an additional 30 minutes.
Other pavlova recipes call for a hotter oven with a reduced cooking time. I have always found that low and slow is the best way to cook any pavlova or meringue. (I’ll share my meringue recipe another time).
When the pavlovas are cooked turn the oven off. Open the door slightly and allow them to cool in the oven. Slow cooling is best to create a crispy outer crust.
Never cool a meringue in the fridge. This will cause them to weep a sticky, orange goo.
When they are fully cooled its time to decorate. Whip the cream until thick. Add sugar to sweeten if desired.
Fill each mini pavlova with fresh cream and decorate with the fresh fruit of your choice. Raspberries and blueberries are my favorite.
They really are as good as they look – one of my all time favorite desserts.
I like to make these mini pavlova nests since it makes serving a breeze. There is less risk of cracking smaller shells as you lift them off the parchment paper. Also presentation is easier than with a larger pavlova, since you don’t have to contend with a cracking crust as you cut each slice.
However, if you prefer one large pavlova, this recipe works just great. Here’s how to make a few changes to create one stunning dessert.
How To Tweak This Recipe For One Large Pavlova:
Instead of using a cup to mark 12 mini circles, just use a regular dinner plate to mark a large circle on the parchment paper. Again, remember to turn the pen-side under before transferring the meringue mixture.
Spoon all of the beaten egg white mixture onto the large circle on the baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Use the back of a spoon to smooth out the top, creating a small lip around the perimeter. Then bake it exactly as above – low and slow for best results.
When fully cooled just decorate it with whipped cream and fresh fruit. You can make a beautiful, symmetrical pattern, or just go crazy and spread the fruit around all higglety pigglety like I do. Delicious whichever method you choose.
Here is the printable recipe:
Wishing you all happy pavlova baking!
Slán agus beannacht leat!
(Goodbye and blessings)
Irish American Mom