While chocolate will always have my heart, I’ve recently been exploring lighter, seasonally-inspired desserts filled with fresh fruit. And since we're wrapping up strawberry season here in New York, I took our final haul and made this Strawberry Pavlova by Nigella Lawson. While the recipe appears to be elaborate (and a bit daunting) at first, I was pleasantly surprised by how easily it came together with minimal ingredients. And the best part is that it looks as good as it tastes – light and fresh with the sweetness of summer.
Named in honor of the the famed Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, this delicate dessert has a fluffy meringue base with a crispy outer and soft center. While initially I was a little intimidated by the meringue, it turns out to be surprisingly simple to put together. And it's the perfect dessert to serve at a summer gathering, as you can make the meringue base in advance and assemble it right before serving. I laid mine on top of this handmade bamboo tray, which is great for serving cakes, cheeses and vegetables and has become a summer staple at our house.
Adapted from a recipe by Nigella Lawson
- To prepare meringue: heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and draw a circle on the paper using an 8- or 9- inch cake pan as a guide. Flip the parchment over so the pencil marking is facing down (this ensures that the pencil won't transfer to the meringue). In bowl of an electric mixer, combine egg whites and salt. Begin beating at low speed, slowly increasing to high. Continue until satiny peaks begin to form; gradually beat in sugar a tablespoon at a time until meringue is stiff and shiny.
- Sprinkle in cornstarch, white-wine vinegar and vanilla, and fold in gently. Mound onto parchment within circle, and shape into a disk, flattening top and smoothing sides. Place in oven, and immediately reduce heat to 300 degrees. Bake 1 hour 15 minutes. Turn off heat, and allow meringue to cool completely in oven.
- To prepare topping: in a mixing bowl, combine strawberries, vanilla, balsamic vinegar, sugar and a splash of bourbon. Cover with plastic wrap. Let sit at room temperature at least 15 minutes and up to 2 hours.
- To serve, carefully peel off parchment and place meringue on a platter or cake stand. Gently crack the top with the back of a soup spoon to make a shallow nest for the whipped cream and berries. Whip cream until it is thick enough to hold peaks, and spoon it evenly over meringue. Cover cream with strawberries, allowing a small amount of their liquid to dribble onto cream. Serve immediately.
Since the meringue and whipped cream are so light, the sweet flavor of the strawberries really shines. They're drizzled with balsamic vinegar and vanilla and Jeffrey added a splash of bourbon to give it a festive punch. This really brings out the flavor of the fruit and makes it decandent and delicious. And the key is to let the strawberries marinate to help release the juices, creating a tasty syrup. This bamboo bowl is great for mixing fruit, salads, etc. I like to have a few on hand for kitchen prep as well as serving food at the table, especially when it's outdoors.
This dessert is simply divine, and just in time for the holiday weekend. Plus, it's a beautiful summer palette set on a table, and a real crowd pleaser. I'll be enjoying a slice, or two today. Happy 4th of July, friends. Bon Appétit!