This time of year I crave fresh strawberries. I like something a little sweet and a little tart with them. My favorite is lemon pound cake with freshly sliced strawberries and whipped cream. However, I’ve been trying to lighten up a bit and decided to enjoy these flavors with a lower-fat option.
Pavlovas are meringues that are baked slowly in a low-temperature oven and topped with fresh fruit and whipped cream. They are named for the famed Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. The whip cream garnish signifies the frill of the ballerina’s skirt.
Pavlovas are not difficult to make, but there are some rules. All of the utensils and bowls must be very clean. Any trace of fat residue will inhibit the egg whites from whipping and achieving proper volume. Be careful when separating the eggs that no yolks end up with the whites.
You can top pavlovas with any fresh fruit of your choice and omit the whipped cream for an even lower-fat option. I chose to fill these with a tart lemon curd and fresh strawberries. You can find good recipes for lemon curd on the internet, and there are many high-quality versions at the grocery store. It’s a great springtime treat! Here’s how to make it:
Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
- 3/4 cup granulate sugar
- 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
Set aside sugar and cream of tartar mixture. In a very clean mixer bowl with a whisk attachment or wire beaters, whip until foamy:
- 6 egg whites
Lower mixer speed and gradually sprinkle sugar and cream of tartar mixture into egg whites while motor is running.
Increase speed to high and continue to whip until medium peaks form. (If you stop the motor, lift up the whisk attachment. The mass should be shiny and almost hold its shape).
On a parchment lined sheet pan, spoon an individual-sized portion of the meringue. Use the spoon to indent the center that will hold the filling. You may also place the meringue in a pastry bag with a large plain tip and pipe circles.
Bake until they are almost set. They should be dry to the touch but a little moist in the center. The baking time varies depending on the oven. Start checking for doneness in one hour. It may take as long as two hours. Once cool, top with desired fillings. You may store unfilled pavlovas at room temperature, loosely covered.
Chef Tracy Darue is the Instructional Coordinator of Baking and Pastry at The Culinary Institute of Montana at Flathead Valley Community College. For more information about the Culinary Institute of Montana at FVCC, visit www.culinaryinstituteofmt.com.
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