My Holiday Pavlova glistens with red and green fruit to make a sparkling presentation at any special occasion. It's sweet and delicious with a crisp meringue crust and a soft marshmallowy center. Topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit this dessert is naturally gluten free so an excellent choice for families with someone on a gluten free diet.
Pavlova vs Meringue
Pavlova is a dessert with a meringue base. It was named after the Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova, who toured Australia and New Zealand in the 1920's. The actual origin of the dessert is widely disputed but it became popular and is now considered the national dessert in bothAustralia and New Zealand.
Pavlova has a meringue base that is filled with whipped cream and topped with fresh fruit. Once you've mastered the basic technique for making meringue you can make all kinds of desserts with it and even meringue cookies. By varying the shape and size of the meringue, and even using different fillings (homemade lemon curd anyone) you can make a different dessert. A meringue layer cake is very impressive!
With so many options Pavlova or just meringue can give you year-round options for dessert.
A Seasonal Strategy
I love to cook with a seasonal strategy which means using fruits and vegetables in season. When it comes to holidays colour themes and special once-a-year recipes are included on my list of dishes to cook or bake. Red and green is always trending in December and you can bet I'm using all the red and green produce I can find.
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The Science of Meringue for Holiday Pavlova
A meringue dessert is made from whipped egg whites, sugar (either granulated or icing sugar), an acid (cream of tartar and/or vinegar) and a binding agent (cornstarch or corn flour). When baked the meringue develops a crisp crust with a soft, light inside. Meringue is easy to make but there are a few tips you should know. Follow these and you will make a successful meringue the first time you try it!
- Eggs are easiest to separate when cold, but should be at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before beating
- Stainless steel or glass bowls work best for beating egg whites, avoid plastic bowls
- The bowl, beaters and spatula should be clean, dry and grease-free
- Any yolk, even a tiny fleck, will affect the ability of the egg white to increase in volume. If you have a bit of yolk in with the whites remove it all or start over.
- Humidity prevents egg whites from expanding so recipes often suggest not making meringue on high humidity days. I live in a dry climate so have never had this problem but now you know.
Cream of Tartar Substitute
There is no end to the number of ingredients you could stock in your kitchen. One of those rarely used ingredients is cream of tartar. If you buy it write the date on the box just for fun. Everyone I know has a box older than their oldest child or doesn't use cream of tartar.
Most recipes calling for cream of tartar also call for baking soda. Together they act as a leavener in the recipe. Try this substitute if you don't want to buy cream of tartar.
Cream of Tartar Substitute
Use 2 teaspoon of baking powder to replace 1 tsp cream of tartar & ½ teaspoon baking soda.
If you did buy cream of tartar Cinnamon Snickerdoodles is another recipe that calls for it.
Get The Tools
You need the most basic kitchen tools to make meringues and pavlova.
- Everyday home cooks appreciate the help of a hand mixer or a stand mixer for beating egg whites. If you're a chef in training feel free to use a balloon whisk and a copper bowl to beat those egg whites by hand!
- To make meringues in any shape you want simply draw the shape onto parchment then turn the paper over onto a baking sheet. Spread or pipe the meringue onto your drawing and bake.
Let me know in the comments below if you were inspired to make meringues or pavlova. If you have a picture I'd love to see it.
Originally posted 2015, updated December 2021.
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More Holiday Recipes
- 4 egg whites, room temperature
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 teaspoon cornstarch
- 2 teaspoon white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup whipping cream, whipped
- 2-3 cups chopped fresh fruit
- GARNISH - icing sugar for dusting
- Preheat oven to 275°F.
- Cover baking pan with parchment paper. Using a pencil draw a circle, square or rectangle on the paper to make a meringue that will fit the serving dish you choose. Flip the paper over so the pencil is on the underside.
- Beat egg whites, salt and cream of tartar together in a bowl until the whites hold stiff peaks.
- Add sugar, a few tablespoons at a time, beating until mixture is stiff and glossy.
- Beat in the cornstarch then the vinegar.
- Spread meringue mixture onto the shape you have drawn to make a base.
- Fill piping bag or zipper bag with some of the meringue mixture and pipe an edge all around the base. Repeat to get the height you desire refilling the piping bag as needed.
- Pipe any remaining meringue into small shapes and bake with larger meringue base.
- Bake in preheated oven for 60-65 minutes or until meringue is firm and slightly browned.
- Turn off oven and allow to cool completely in the oven with the door ajar.
- In electric mixer whip cream to soft peaks. Add vanilla and beat until stiff.
- Just before serving fill the meringue with whipped cream.
- Top with fruit of your choice. Dust with icing sugar if desired and serve.