Pavlovas with Strawberries, Vanilla Cream, and Basil Coulis
Today’s recipe is a dessert dish from a continent / two countries I haven’t even set foot in: Australia and New Zealand. It’s on my travel bucket list, so maybe one day I’ll have the balls to take that 30-hour flight across the world! In the mean time, here’s something sweet that came from that island country in the Pacific, New Zealand – and I’m not talking about Kiwis (the people, the bird, nor the fruit)! I’m talking about something sweet called pavlovas! Here’s a brief Wiki history of the pavlova, in case you are interested.
Wouldn’t you agree that they are eye-catching? If you ever want to impress your dinner guests with an elegant dessert, this is it!
Pavlovas are made with egg whites, which require mad whipping with sugar, cornstarch, and white vinegar until they form firm peaks. This whipping frenzy results in a light, airy baked meringue with a crunchy exterior, and a cloudy, marshmallow-like interior.
One important tip for the success of your baked meringue:
Do not open the oven door at all costs! This will spur the oven burners to turn on, which could brown the meringue unnecessarily. You’re going to want to see pale or alabaster or antique-white-looking meringues. Opening the oven doors will also cause cold air to seep in, which can make the meringues fall like the Berlin Wall! So, stay faithful to this rule!
Other than that…enjoy! It seems like a daunting recipe with many components, but believe me…if I – a novice baker slash busy mom-of-three – can make these, you can, too! The wonderful thing about this recipe is that you can pre-make each element separately over one or two or even three days. Baby steps, baby steps…
So, do you think you will try making these pavlovas now?
- ~~ For the Meringues ~~
- 4 large egg whites, room temperature
- 1 cup confectioner's sugar, divided into ¾ cup and ¼ cup
- 1½ teaspoons cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon white vinegar
- ~~ For the Vanilla Cream ~~
- ¾ cup chilled heavy whipping cream (at least 35%)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise
- ~~ For the Strawberry Coulis ~~
- ½ pint container strawberries, hulled
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ~~ For the Basil Coulis ~~
- ⅓ cup packed fresh basil leaves
- ½ cup light corn syrup or light agave syrup
- ~~ For Garnish ~~
- 1 pint strawberries, halved, stems and leaves left on
- ⅓ cup crushed raw pistachios
- To make the Meringues: Position rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 F degrees.
- Trace six 2½-inch diameter circles on parchment paper, spacing apart about 2 inches. Invert paper onto baking sheet.
- In a large bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk, beat egg whites on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 4 minutes.
- Gradually add ¾ cup sugar, beating until medium-firm peaks form, about 3 minutes.
- Mix remaining ¼ cup sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Gradually beat sugar-cornstarch mixture into meringue batter, continue beating until very stiff, about 2 minutes. Beat in vinegar for 1 minute. Total beating time should be around 10 minutes.
- Divide meringues equally among circles, mounding and filling the rounds completely.
- Bake meringues for 40 minutes. (Never open the oven door!)
- Turn oven off and keep meringues inside with the door closed for another 30 minutes.
- Open door slightly and let meringues cool in oven until almost completely dry in center, about 30 minutes longer.
- Can be made up to 3 days ahead. Cool completely and store in an airtight container at room temperature.
- To make the Vanilla Cream: Combine cream and sugar in medium bowl. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean (reserve bean for another use). Using electric mixer, beat cream until soft peaks form.
- To make the Strawberry Coulis: Purée strawberries and sugar in processor until smooth. Heat the purée over medium-low heat until syrup forms, about 3 minutes.
- To make the Basil Coulis: Blanch basil leaves in a small saucepan of boiling water for 30 seconds.
- Drain and transfer basil to bowl over ice to stop cooking. Squeeze out excess water from basil.
- Purée basil with corn or agave syrup in blender. Cover and chill at least 2 hours or overnight to allow flavours to develop.
- Bring basil coulis to room temperature. Strain syrup through a sieve before serving.
- To assemble: Divide the vanilla cream and place in the center of each meringue disc.
- Top each with halved strawberries.
- Spoon strawberry coulis and basil coulis around the meringue circle and over the strawberries.
- Sprinkle with crushed pistachios. Serve immediately, or chill before serving.