Egg whites and I have not always had the best of relationships. In fact, we still have our issues, but I honestly think we’re working them out. Confession time: I completely botched my first batch of meringue mushrooms for our Buche de Noel this year. I mean, I really screwed them up. They looked like sad white wafers, flat as a pancake. A thin pancake. No, I didn’t post pictures, I was embarrassed enough that anyone saw my moment of utter failure, thank you very much. Thankfully my mom was in town, and she’s a meringue freak, so we used her recipe and everything was ok. But I needed to redeem myself somehow.
Enter this pavlova. I have longed to make this for months, but for me, the holidays rely on more portable, individual-serving food than this. So, it waited. Until today when I realized I had hit a holiday sweets wall and wanted fruit. and vegetables. and things that were light. Even my sweet baby is sick of chocolatey, rich treats…and I never thought that would happen. Although, here she is getting really excited at the thought of extra whip cream heading her direction.
So about this particular pavlova. It is, in truth, Nigella’s Wedding Pavlova from the Feast book. Now, if you know me, you know this is one of my absolute favorite cookbooks, and it’s filled with glorious things I only wish I had reason to make. But, a wedding pavlova? Even I can’t think of a good excuse to make it.
Until this day; the beginning of January 2012. Which means the beginning of me trying new things, sometimes for no reason except that I feel like it. And My need to make things right with meringue combined with my fruit craving made this a must for the “to-make” list.
I obviously made quite a few changes, not that I think the recipe needed it. The changes were purely based on what was available at the market. No white peaches or passionfruits to speak of, I opted for blackberries. These blackberries were too juicy and plump to pass up, and the limes looked decent too. I love a good sweet/sour combination, and this is one of my favorites. I came across it a little while ago when I made Smitten Kitchen’s lime yogurt cake with blackberry sauce, and I’ve loved it ever since.
I only altered the actual meringue part slightly, substituting vanilla extract for coconut. I also added a tablespoon of sugar to the whipped cream, but that’s only because that’s typically how I make it: it’s an addition you could surely ignore if you so choose.
My end result? Exactly what I wanted; a puffy, crisp meringue shell on the outside with a fluffy, light-as-a-feather marshmallow center, all covered in airy cream and sweet, seductive fruit. It felt fresh as early spring, and it gave my taste buds a much-needed kick in the tush. It’s nice to be back in the land of actual food again.
Adapted, quite haphazardly, from Nigella Lawson’s “Wedding Pavlova” which appears in Feast: Food to Celebrate Life.
Black + White Pavlova
- 8 egg whites, with not a speck of yolk in it
- pinch salt
- 2 1/2 cups superfine sugar
- 4 teaspoons cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups heavy (whipping) cream
- 1 tablespoon sugar (for the whipped cream topping)
- juice of one lime
- 1 lb (16 ounces) of fresh blackberries (or more, if you want more. that’s up to you.)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and draw a rough 10 inch circle, using a springform of that size as a guide if you have one.
Whisk the egg whites and salt until satiny peaks form. Then beat in the sugar, tablespoonfuls at a time, until the meringue is stiff and shiny. Sprinkle over the cornstarch, vinegar and coconut extract, and fold in lightly. Mound on to the baking sheet within the circle, flatten the top and smooth the sides. Put in the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 300°F and cook for 1¼-1½ hours. It will have risen and cracked on the top and a little around the sides. If it is not dry and crispy on the outside give it a little longer. Then turn off the oven, open the door and leave to cool completely.
Meanwhile, whip the cream and sugar until thickened but still soft, cover and place in refrigerator until ready to use. When you’re ready to assemble your pavlova, take the cream and pile on top of the meringue, spreading it to the edges in a rough, swirly fashion.
Juice your lime into a medium or large bowl and strain if needed. When you are ready to assemble the pavlova, toss the blackberries in the lime juice. Using a slotted spoon, gently scoop the berries out of the bowl and on to the cream, placing them as you’d like (i use my fingers to fill in where needed.)
I didn’t have any grand illusions of being able to cut this perfectly. I think it’s prettier anyway heaped onto a plate, making sure all ingredients – meringue, cream, and blackberries – are included.