Exciting news: I chewed today! For the first time in two months! As soon as my doctor gave me the go-ahead, I started thinking of what I’d have first: sushi? Pizza? God, I’d been dreaming of pizza. But he quickly brought me back down to earth. I have to start with soft foods as my jaw gets used to chewing again and slowly work my way up to salads, apples and steak.
I planned on a post-appointment smoothie for lunch, but my mom and stumbled upon Soom Soom near the smoothie place and decided to go there instead. We’re both huge fans of Mediterranean and Israeli food, so it was right up our alley. She had a salad with falafel, hummus, and a ton of condiments (the tabbouleh was particularly good!) and I got a sabich sandwich, a soft pita filled with hard boiled egg, potato, and eggplant. Everything was so fresh and filled with flavor, and chewing was cool, if somewhat slow. It’ll take a couple of weeks for me to get back to normal, but right now, even the small steps are exciting.
Now, on to these pavlovas! We’re going to a Passover program this year, which means we haven’t been doing much cooking or cleaning. Still, I wanted to share this dessert with you because they’re exactly the sort of thing I usually make during the holiday: easy, elegant, and completely delicious.
Pavlovas are a classic dessert and little tricks take them from good to great. Vinegar and cream of tartar help make a more stable meringue, macerating the strawberries draws out their natural sugars, and room temperature egg whites ensure that the meringue will whip up faster.
The chocolate pavlova bases are rich and marshmallowy, with the addictive chewy/crispy outsides of a meringue, and the lavender cream is subtly sweet and floral, inspired by spring. The strawberries are sweet and add a freshness to the pavlovas that makes them an excellent end to a long meal (Seder night, looking at you!) and their juices puddle on the plate, mingling with the cream and the shards of meringue.
You could make this into one giant pavlova and top it with a jumble of berries, but I love the look of these small, personal ones. Serve them on pretty plates, and your meal is pretty much done!
I hope you all have a great Passover filled with family time, great food and connection. May your houses be chametz free and your desserts top notch! Let me know if you guys are making any special desserts or traditional dishes, in the comments below.
PS: more Pesach desserts here! Triple Chocolate Almond Biscotti, Classic Chocolate Mousse, Triple Berry Pavlova, Salame el Ciocolatto, English Toffee
PPS: Check back right after Passover for a delicious bread recipe!
Yields: 4 servings (recipe can be easily doubled)
Why I love this recipe: the pavlovas have wonderfully crunchy outsides and soft, marshmallow-y insides, and are light yet full of chocolate richness. The small amount of lavender in the cream adds subtle floral flavor that works perfectly in tandem with the vanilla sugar macerated strawberries. These are light and impressive, perfect for a springtime and Passover dessert.
Notes: make sure you use certified kosher for Passover vinegar and cream of tartar. If you’re serving these at the end of a meat meal, use a non-dairy substitute for the heavy cream. If you’d like to make these ahead of time: simply whip the cream and macerate the strawberries, then store them both in the fridge. The pavlovas will keep, covered, for a day or two at room temperature. Assemble right before serving.
For the pavlovas:
- 2 extra large egg whites, room temperature
- pinch of fine sea salt
- 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/2 cup superfine sugar
- 2 tablespoons good quality cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
For the lavender cream and strawberries:
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 5 tablespoons sugar, mixed with seeds of 1/2 a vanilla bean
- pinch of dried lavender buds
- 1 1/2 cups strawberries, washed, tops removed and sliced
- chocolate shavings, or cacao nibs, for serving
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 225°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside until needed.
- Make the pavlovas: first, whisk together the sugar and the cocoa. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites, salt and cream of tartar on medium high speed until soft peaks form.
- Switch to the highest speed and with the mixer running, slowly add the sugar/cocoa mixture about one tablespoon at a time, until you’ve added all of it and the egg whites are stiff and glossy, about 5-7 minutes.
- Add the vanilla and vinegar and mix for another half a minute by hand.
- Dollop the meringue onto the prepared baking sheet in four even, 3″ rounds, at least two inches apart for each other.
- With a spoon, make a small indent in the center of each mound.
- Bake the meringues for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, until they are dry on the outside and very slightly darkened. While the pavlovas bake, combine the sliced strawberries with 3 tablespoons of the vanilla sugar and let sit.
- Remove the pavlovas from the oven. Whip the cream with the remaining 2 tablespoons of the vanilla sugar and the pinch of lavender.
- Place each pavlova on a plate. Dollop with a swirl of lavender cream and top with a spoonful of juicy strawberries. Top with chocolate shavings or cacao nibs. Serve immediately!