Today we went swimming. It doesn’t feel like summer until you go swimming. There is something about that first plunge, that first joyous leap into the pool, that cements it: summer is here. It is here to stay.
Another thing that cements summer into place? Berries. In all their various forms: the tartest raspberries, sweet blackberries, juicy blueberries. I’m not choosy.
Often, we combine these two things, these harbingers of summer. We bring a bowl of berries- still glistening from a quick wash, sometimes sprinkled behind slabs of watermelon- to the pool, and feast on the finest fruits of the season, between breaks out in the sun. It’s simple, but it’s also one of my favorite parts of summer.
Another thing I love to do with berries, besides for eat them poolside, is pile them onto dessert. Not just any dessert, of course. It must be a dessert worthy of their freshness, of their short season. If it isn’t pie, my favorite thing to use berries in is pavlova.
Use them on, I should say. The berries aren’t incorporated into the actual pavlova. That remains a big, fluffy cloud-like meringue with nothing to disturb its marshmallow-y smoothness or to break through its crackly top. The very pavlova itself is worthy of countless accolades, but when crowned with piles of cream, swirls of jam, and tumbles of the freshest, juiciest fruit…that’s when it becomes: my goodness, what a dessert!
This is my favorite thing to make in the spring and summer months, when the berries do their best at enticing. With every mouthful, you get a smooth, creamy, yet crunchy and juicy bite and it’s satisfying while being both light and airy.
I’ve made it countless times, and I think it’s best at the end of a long, leisurely meal, filled with family and friends who won’t be able to resist asking for seconds. But next time, I may just serve this poolside!
Have a wonderful weekend.
Yield: one 8″ pavlova, serving 6-8
Why I love this recipe: a perfect pavlova is one with a crisp outside and a fluffy, marshmallow-y inside and this one delivers on both ends. The addition of acid (vinegar, in this case) is what results in that perfect combination, and the topping of lightly sweetened whipped cream, blackberry jam and tart, juicy berries, makes this dessert creamy, fluffy, and crispy all at once.
Notes: to ensure egg whites that beat up nice and stiff, start with a perfectly clean bowl and beaters. Also, when separating your egg yolks from the whites, make sure that not a drop of yolk gets into the whites. Otherwise, it could stop the whites from beating. The pavlova will keep, unfilled, for a day or two at room temperature.
For the pavlova:
- 4 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 1 cup superfine sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar
For the pavlova topping:
- 2 cups whipped cream
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 3 cups mixed blueberries, blackberries and strawberries, washed and dried
- 1/4 cup blackberry jam
- Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 250°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, and use a pencil to trace an 8″ circle on the parchment paper. Set the baking sheet aside.
- In the bowl of a (spotlessly clean!) stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar on the lowest setting. After 15 seconds, gradually increase the speed to the highest setting. Once the mixture begins to foam, add the sugar and salt in a slow, steady stream.
- The egg whites will begin to look glossy. Keep beating on high until stiff peaks form, standing thick and tall.
- Fold the vanilla and vinegar into the meringue with a spatula, avoiding deflating the meringue.
- Spoon the meringue onto the prepared baking sheet, spreading it out into the drawn circle. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the outside of the meringue has hardened and the center is still soft and chewy.
- Allow the pavlova to cool on its pan. Carefully peel off the parchment and transfer the pavlova to a plate or cake stand. It will most likely crack, but this is fine.
- Combine the whipped cream with the sugar. Top the pavlova with the two cups of whipped cream. Swirl the jam into the whipped cream, then top with the berries. Serve immediately!