We’re on our final dish for our work-night Valentine’s Day meal. I tried a few different dessert recipes that were either quick or make-ahead friendly (it was tough sampling them, but someone’s gotta do it!) before I settled on this one. I wanted something that was pretty, that wouldn’t leave an almost full pan full of leftovers if a person was only making a meal for 2, and obviously, I needed it to be tasty. If you’ve never heard of a Pavlova, it’s basically just fruit and whipped cream served on top of a crisp meringue. They’re typically made in a large tray but are difficult to serve this way. So I made meringue bowls or nests and served them individually. The result was quite nice, if I do say so myself.
The meringue part of the recipe takes several hours to make (don’t worry, you’re not actually working for several hours, but they need to sit in a warm oven for a long time to set up), so they need to be made ahead for your Valentine’s meal to be smooth sailing. They store well in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a couple weeks, so they can be made WAY ahead of time.
Making the meringues only involves 4 ingredients – all of which you probably have at home.
The egg whites absolutely cannot have even a drop of yolk in them, or they won’t whip up. So, don’t make the mistake I did and try to separate them all into the same dish. If the yolk of the last egg breaks, you will have to start over again, with 4 more eggs. Instead, separate the eggs one at a time, and pour the white into the mixing bowl after each egg, so if the yolk breaks, you’re only out one egg. Especially if your eggs are on the older side – the membrane surrounding the yolk is weaker in that case. Save the yolks for another recipe, or just toss them in with scrambled eggs.
The egg whites, vanilla and cream of tartar get mixed until frothy.
Then the mixer speed gets turned up and whipped until they form a soft peak.
Then you add the sugar and keep whipping until the eggs form a stiff peak.
The meringue gets scooped onto a baking sheet and spooned into bowl shapes. Then the little nests get baked at low temperature for 2 hours, and left to sit in the warm oven after turning it off for another 2 hours.
When they’re done, they should be hard, with no soft spots. At this point, you can put the in a container or ziploc bag and forget about them until the big night.
When it’s time to serve the pavlovas, there are a couple of extra steps to prepare the berries and whipped cream.
Wash the berries, and slice the strawberries. Toss them all together with some sugar (taste the fruit to determine how much you’ll need to use) and let them sit until they’re nice and juicy. While you’re waiting, make the whipped cream.
Spoon a dollop of whipped cream onto each meringue, then top with the berries. The combination of berries I used was quite nice, and I liked the colors for Valentine’s day. But you could use any combination of fruit that appeals to you – strawberry-mango, peach-berry, anything will work! I think next time I make these, I will try stawberry-Nutella.
Watch for the last post in this Valentine’s day series to for tips on how to put this meal together, complete with a make-ahead schedule.
- 4 large egg whites at room temperature
- 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 cup strawberries sliced
- 1 cup raspberries
- 1 cup blackberries
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp sugar
Adjust oven rack to the medium position; heat oven to 200°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Whip egg whites, vanilla and cream of tartar in a large bowl at medium-low speed until foamy (about 1 minute). Increase speed to medium high and whip until soft peaks form (about 1 minute). Gradually add the sugar and continue whipping until stiff peaks form (2-3 minutes).
Scoop 6 mounds of meringue onto the baking sheet. Using a spoon, form each mound into a bowl shape. Bake meringues until they look dry, about 2 hours. Turn off oven but keep the sheet in the oven until the meringues are completely hard, about 2 more hours. If not using right away, seal in an airtight container or bag and store at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.
Toss berries with sugar in a medium bowl. Let sit until juicy, about 10 minutes.
Whip cream, vanilla and sugar in a large bowl on medium high speed until soft peaks form.
Spoon about 1/4 cup whipped cream onto each meringue. Top with berries and serve.
Taste the fruit before adding the sugar to determine if more or less sugar is required.