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Plum Pavlovas

in Diana's Recipe Book

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Servings: 6
If apple pie is America's classic dessert, then this is Australia's. The meringues are a little tricky to cook since they need a short period of high heat to set and crisp the exterior and then a longer period at lower heat so the interior is set but still chewy.

The original Pavlova dessert, a baked meringue topped with fruit and whipped cream, was named for the famous Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. Making crisp meringues requires a high ratio of sugar to egg whites and a slow oven that will dry them out without giving them color. A gas oven with a pilot light is ideal for drying them out. Bakers seeking hard and completely dry baked meringues will leave them in the oven overnight to dry out. The Pavlova, however, calls for a softer baked meringue, crisp on the outside and slightly sticky on the inside.

Important Note:
It's best not to make meringues on humid days when it is practically impossible to get anything other than a soggy result.

For the Meringues:
1/2 cup egg whites (from 3 to 4 eggs)
Pinch of salt
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 cup superfine baker's sugar or caster sugar

For the Plums:
1/2 cup water
2/3 cup granulated or caster sugar
3 or 4 firm red plums, halved, pitted and each half cut into 8 slices
Pinch of salt
6 tbsp. (3/4 stick/3 oz./85 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F (120 degrees C). Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

To Make the Meringues:
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the egg whites, salt and lemon juice. Beat on high speed until the large, foamy bubbles become small, about 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the 1 cup sugar while continuing to beat. Increase the speed to high and beat until the whites are firm and glossy, about 8 minutes.

Using a spring-loaded ice cream scoop or a large spoon, mound the meringue in 6 well-spaced mounds on the prepared baking sheet. Using the back of a spoon, form a depression in the center of each mound. Bake the meringues for 1 hour, turn off the oven and let them remain in the oven for 1 hour more. Remove the meringues from the oven and let cool to room temperature before serving. They may be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

For the Plums:
In a large, nonreactive sauté pan (such as stainless steel) over medium heat, bring the water and sugar to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Boil for 2 minutes to make a thin syrup. Add the plum slices and salt and return to a boil. Reduce the heat so the mixture simmers and cook until the plums are tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the butter and swirl the mixture in the pan until the butter is melted.

Arrange the meringues on individual plates. Spoon the plums along with some of the juice on top of the meringues. Serve the Pavlovas immediately.

Makes 6 servings.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Fruit Dessert, by Carolyn Beth Weil (Simon & Schuster, 2004).

Date: July 21, 2006

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