Every year the Pantone Color Institute issues its ‘Color of the Year’ as a design trend forecast and reflection of where the world stands socially, culturally and politically. For 2018 it’s a gorgeous blue-based shade of purple called Ultra Violet, described by Pantone as ‘a dramatically provocative and thoughtful purple shade that communicates originality, ingenuity, and visionary thinking that points toward the future’.
Poetic, right? I read that description and thought about how it could translate through food and it just had to be a pavlova. Light and airy baked meringue with a crispy exterior and marshmallowy inside, dripping in the deep purple hues of stewed berries – my culinary take on the current zeitgeist. There is so much to be said for the colour purple and I could go on, but let’s get down to business. I love pavlovas for special occasions and with the clock ticking on 2017, this is the perfect way to welcome the new year on a sweet note.
I’ve made baked meringues before and discovered the secret ingredient for best results is patience. With so few ingredients you might think, ‘oh it’s a cinch…I got this. It’s egg whites and sugar; how hard could that be?’ Well…believe me, it’s surprisingly easy to start off on the right foot and then go horribly off the rails in a split second. Case in point – it took 3 tries to get this one right! But in the end, it came together perfectly.
The meringue portion of the recipe below is my go-to from Martha Stewart and pretty foolproof, but the stewed berry topping is my own concoction. Once baked, the meringue can be stored wrapped in plastic wrap for 24 hours. This also works really well as smaller size meringues for individual pavlovas and can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
Here are a few quick tips from my trial and error (and error, and error):
Don’t use egg whites from a carton. I thought I would err on the side of practicality to avoid the hassle of separating eggs by hand, but because the pasteurization process denatures the egg white protein they’re pretty much useless for this and don’t beat. Take the time with whole eggs…you can save the egg yolks for a frittata.
Use room temperature eggs. For the first few attempts, I was rushing and used eggs right from the fridge but if you leave them out for an hour or so before you need them, you’ll get so much more volume out of the egg whites. Another trick to bring them to room temp faster: place eggs in a bowl covered in warm tap water for 20 minutes.
Add sugar one tablespoon at a time. Once the egg whites have reached the soft peak stage after 2 – 3 minutes of beating at high speed, slowly adding the sugar one tablespoon at a time will guarantee the perfect stiff glossy meringue you’re looking for. The test? Hold the bowl of beaten egg whites over your head – if done properly you won’t have anything to worry about. For my first two attempts, I was rushing (again) and added the sugar too quickly, resulting in a runny mess.
- 4 large egg whites, room temperature
- 1 cup, plus 2 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- pinch salt
- 2 tsp white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- ½ cup heavy cream
Mixed Berry Topping
- 2 cups blueberries
- 2 cup blackberries
- 2 tbsp sugar
- zest and juice of half a lemon
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Draw four 4-inch circles or one 8-inch circle onto a sheet of parchment paper. Transfer parchment, traced side down, to a baking sheet.
- Whisk egg whites and a pinch of salt with a mixer on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. With machine running, add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until stiff, glossy peaks form. Sprinkle in vinegar, cornstarch, and vanilla; whisk until just combined.
- With a rubber spatula, mound meringue onto parchment in center of circle or circles. Evenly spread meringue toward edges. Transfer to oven, and immediately reduce temperature to 200 degrees. Bake until meringue lifts off parchment easily, about 1 1/2 hours.
- Turn off oven. Let meringue cool completely in oven for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
- In a small saucepan, place 1 cup each of the berries, lemon juice, lemon zest and sugar. Cook on medium-high heat for 3 – 4 minutes until the berries start to release some of their juices.
- Sprinkle cornstarch on top of the berries and stir gently until combined. Continue to cook over medium heat for another 8 – 10 minutes until the mixture thickens slightly. By this point the blackberries will have nearly disintegrated and the blueberries will still hold some of their shape.
- Remove from heat and stir in the remaining 1 cup of blueberries and blackberries. Transfer to a glass bowl and set aside to cool for at least 30 minutes at room temperature, or refrigerate for 10 – 15 minutes to speed up the process. The mixture will continue to thicken as it cools, resulting in a loose jam-like consistency.
- The berry mixture can be made in advance and will keep for a couple of days covered in the fridge.
- TIP – the berry mixture should be cool or at the very least room temperature before spooning on the meringue. If it’s hot, it will start to dissolve the meringue and you’ll have a collapsed dessert on your hands.
To assemble, spoon the berry mixture on top of the meringue, top with whipped cream and garnish with a few berries.
Egg whites beaten to soft peak stage, after 2 – 3 minutes
Glossy, stiff peaks after incorporating all sugar beaten at high speed for 4 – 5 minutes
Mound the meringue mixture into an 8-inch round on parchment paper
After 1.5 hours of baking and another 1.5 hours of cooling….the finished product. The outside will be delicately crisp with a few cracks, with a soft marshmallowy inside.
Topped with the mixed berry topping and whipped cream.