Blackberry & Plum Pavlova
Both Australians and New Zealanders claim Pavlova as a national dessert and serve it at pretty much any opportunity for celebration — birthday, holiday, summer barbecue. It was named for the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, a megastar who toured those countries in 1925, and whose dancing was frequently described as “light as air.”
The name is apt. This luscious cumulus cloud of a dessert may look giant on the plate, but on the palate, it’s airy, creamy, and not overly sweet. The abundant whipped cream and marshmallow-y texture of the meringue contrast beautifully with the tartness of the plums and blackberries. Mint leaves add freshness, and the sweet, crispy shell and pinch of salty pistachios contribute even more textural fun. This is the ideal finish to a big, shared meal where everyone is likely to be very full, but longs to linger at the table (without falling asleep).
Pavlova is both art and science, and this recipe is somewhat technical. Still, the individual steps are straightforward and precise — it’s made for the home baker. We do have a couple tips from the test kitchen bakers: You want to dissolve all the sugar in the meringue so it doesn’t pitch water and collapse, so take the full 10 to 15 minutes to mix. This gives the sugar time to dissolve without overbeating the meringue, which will also make it droop. To prevent cracks in the meringue, just barely open the oven door and let a little air in there while it’s cooling. And if it does crack, let that go. It will taste just as heavenly.
4 egg whites, room temperature
1 cup superfine sugar
1 tsp white wine vinegar
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp apricot preserves
2 tsp water
2 ripe plums, halved, pitted, and cut into ½” slices
6 oz blackberries
1 Tbsp finely chopped Gelson’s roasted and salted pistachios, for garnish
1 Tbsp Gelson’s organic small mint leaves, for garnish
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 Tbsp confectioners’ sugar
2 tsp brandy (optional)
To make the meringue: Preheat the oven to 300°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Thoroughly clean the bowl of a stand mixer and add the egg whites. Using the whisk attachment on medium speed, beat the egg whites to soft peaks, 3 to 5 minutes.
Slowly pour in the superfine sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, pausing for about 20 seconds between each addition to let the sugar dissolve, about 10 minutes total. Scrape down the sides as needed to make sure all of the sugar is incorporated.
Once all of the sugar is dissolved, increase the speed to medium-high and beat to stiff peaks, 3 to 5 minutes. Note: To determine if the sugar is dissolved, rub some meringue between your fingers. If you can’t feel any sugar granules, you’re ready to go.
Add the white wine vinegar and vanilla extract and mix on medium speed until incorporated.
Using a clean rubber spatula, gently fold in the cornstarch until incorporated.
Place a dab of meringue under each corner of the parchment paper to secure it to the baking sheet. Scoop the rest of the meringue onto the center of the parchment. Using an offset spatula, gently form the meringue into a shallow dome, about 8” in diameter and 3” tall.
Scoop a well out of the center that is about 1” deep and 3” in diameter, discarding or baking the scooped-out meringue separately. You can now bake the meringue as is, or smooth down the sides and, using the off-set spatula, create a pattern in the meringue. Clean up the edges using a dry paper towel.
Transfer the meringue to the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 225°. Bake for 90 minutes, turn the oven off, crack the oven door, and let the meringue cool completely. Transfer it to a serving platter.
To make the fruit topping: Combine the apricot preserves, water, and a small pinch of kosher salt in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir until the mixture resembles a thin jam, about 1 minute.
Add the plums, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, 3 to 4 minutes.
Stir in the blackberries until coated and turn off the heat. Transfer the fruit mixture and its juices to a bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.
To make the whipped cream: Immediately before serving the Pavlova, combine the heavy cream, confectioners’ sugar, and brandy (if using) in a stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, beat on medium-high speed until soft peaks form, about 3 minutes.
To assemble the Pavlova, scoop the whipped cream into the well, filling it to the top of the meringue. Scatter the fruit mixture on top of the whipped cream. Garnish with the chopped pistachios, mint leaves, and remaining fruit juice. Serve any remaining fruit on the side.