I love identifying trends in food as they come and go. If you love food like I do, you can’t help but recognize them. Every time you turn on the Food Network, browse recipes on social media, or go out to a trendy restaurant, you see those same key players at every turn. I happen to love it – when it comes to cooking and eating, I willingly jump on whatever bandwagon is passing by. It feeds my need to explore new flavors, methods, and cuisines.
I’ve been noticing a growing number of pavlova recipes on Pinterest. They’re visually stunning, so they catch my eye every time. These light nests of meringue topped with pillowy whipped cream and vibrant fruit can’t help but look gorgeous. My curiosity was peaked.
So when I opened my most recent Bon Appetite magazine and saw yet another lovely photo spread of the airy dessert, I finally gave in. I would attempt the illusive meringue, a task I had always categorized as “difficult”. It wasn’t …. not really. But sometimes you just have to roll your sleeves up and do something in order to realize that you’re capable.
If you’re unsure about making a meringue as I was, pull up a video and watch somebody do it. I watched the Barefoot Contessa (and used her recipe for that part of the dessert). It’s nice to have a visual so you know what to expect.
So, after beating those egg whites half to death, folding in my dry ingredients, and baking the frothy disks for what seemed like forever, I ended up with two sweet little meringues that looked just right. Now for the other parts of the pavlova.
At first I thought it strange to put white whipped cream on a white meringue. The nearly identical elements blend together into a single pillow of white. I finally realized that that’s the point – the whipped cream is only playing a supporting role, adding a beautiful creamy texture to the crisp meringue and syrupy strawberries. You don’t even know it’s there … until you take that first heavenly bite.
Most pavlova recipes will tell you to use sweetened whipped cream. I’m so glad I went with my gut and left out the sugar. The simplicity of unsweetened whipped cream was so necessary with the rest of the dish. It added a creamy decadence that sugary cool whip would not have attained.
Now for the topping. I happened to have a container of perfectly ripe strawberries on hand. I just love berry season. They truly are the crown jewels of the fruit world. And, I thought, the ruby fruits contrasting with the white cake might just be perfection. (it was).
“Macerated berries” may sound technical or fancy, but it really just means you’re marinating the fruit in something (in this case, sugar and the berries’ own juices) to create a sauce. First, you dice up the berries. Then you stir in the sugar and water and let it sit. The strawberry juices are drawn out as the fruit breaks down, and you end up with a really vibrant and delicious syrupy compote.
Another little trend that I’ve been eying is the combination of basil and strawberries. I’ve seen the pairing in everything from lemonade to pie. So I thought to myself, with all this sugary sweetness of meringue and ripe berries, why not throw in something green to balance it out a bit? Oh, am I glad I did. That lovely fresh basil flavor was wonderful with the berries, and it added a perfect surprise pop of flavor to my sweet little cake.
- 3 extra large egg whites at room temperature
- 3/4 cup plus 3 Tbsp white granulated sugar, divided
- pinch of kosher salt
- 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
- 3/4 tsp white wine vinegar
- 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract, divided
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 cups fresh strawberries
- 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
To make Meringues:
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees F.
- Line a baking pan with parchment paper
- Combine egg whites and salt in a bowl. Using the whisk attachment, beat with an electric mixer on high speed until firm (about 1 minute).
- While mixer runs on high, gradually add in 3/4 cup of sugar until stiff, shiny peaks form (about 2 minutes).
- Sift in cornstarch and add vinegar and vanilla. Fold in with a rubber spatula.
- Spoon meringue onto the lined baking sheet in two piles, spreading each out with the spatula into roughly equal discs. They don’t need to be perfect!
- Bake for 1 hour. Turn off oven and allow meringue to cool inside oven for an additional hour. They’ll have a crisp crust with a soft center.
- To assemble, spread half of the whipped cream on one meringue. Layer the second meringue on top and frost with the remaining whipped cream. Spoon macerated strawberries over the top.
To make Whipped Cream:
- Combine cream and 1 tsp vanilla extract in a large bowl. Using a whip attachment, beat with an electric mixer on medium just until firm peaks form.
To make Macerated Strawberries:
- Dice strawberries and add to a bowl with 3 Tbsp of sugar. Stir until well combined. Allow to rest at room temperature for 1-2 hours.
- Shortly before serving, finely chop basil. Stir in to macerated strawberries.
Calories per serving: 325