Rosie’s recipes: Pavlova for Thanksgiving dessert, or anytime

By on November 10, 2018

I have the perfect dessert for your Thanksgiving meal, but some might brand me a heretic.

After enjoying the requisite turkey and stuffing with giblet gravy, sweet potato casserole, the ubiquitous green bean casserole, optional ham, and buttery rolls, I’m foregoing the pumpkin pie.

In its place, I’m offering you something light and ethereal – the Pavlova roll-up.

A traditional Pavlova is a meringue-based dessert, typically served with whipped cream and fruit, named in honor of Russian prima ballerina, Anna Pavlova.

Both Australia and New Zealand lay claim to the creation of the Pavlova and they’ve been squabbling over it since the 1920s when the ballerina toured both countries.

Of course, if you want to muddy the waters, there were Pavlova-like recipes popping up in America and Germany well before Pavlova ever put on her tutu.

At any rate, this delicate meringue confection is as light and airy as Pavlova’s diaphanous skirts.

It’s an arabesque of fruits and foam. It’s a pas de deux of taste and texture. It’s a ballet of flavors. It’s downright delicious.

I’m taking the basic Pavlova, and tweaking it.

My Pavlova consists of a meringue base with a cream cheese, pineapple, and strawberry filling which is then rolled up, jelly-roll style, and adorned with fruits.

The meringue of the Pavlova offers a crisp outer shell, a chewy and tender base, and a marshmallowy interior.

The sweetness is balanced by tart, fresh fruits. No frosting necessary.

It’s the ideal finish for your holiday meal – a dramatic presentation with a jumble of flavors and textures and an ethereal lightness that caps off a rich meal.

First, a few caveats about meringue:

Do not attempt meringue on a humid day.
The egg whites will absorb moisture from the air and will not achieve a stiff state when beaten. Sugar, too, is hygroscopic; that is, it retains moisture from the air, resulting in a limp and sticky meringue. Wait for a dry day.

Do not allow any water or egg yolk to contaminate the whites. Any fat coming in contact with the whites will prevent them from foaming.

Always use a perfectly clean bowl, preferably glass, stainless steel, or copper. A plastic bowl, no matter how clean, will generally retain a grease film.

For maximum volume, have your egg whites at room temperature.

Use a stabilizer.
A stabilizer is some type of acid – cream of tartar, lemon juice, or vinegar.

Introducing an acid into the mix encourages the proteins to bond together, producing a more stable, high-rise foam.
Use a starch, in this case, cornstarch. A teaspoon or two of cornstarch helps soak up any liquid in the meringue, contributing to a shiny, glossy, weep-free product.

Use the whisk attachment, not the beater.
The whisk will incorporate more air into your foam. Add the sugar at the end of beating, not the beginning.

Sugar interferes with the egg proteins forming proper bonds and foaming. Sugar added too soon weakens the protein network, resulting in an inferior structure.

For ideal stability and volume, gradually whip in the sugar after the whites have become foamy but before they form peaks.

I recommend making this the day you’re going to serve it. Meringues are ephemeral. Even at their best, they have a tendency to “weep”.

Now, we’re ready to make a Pavlova Roll-Up.

Pavlova Roulade
For the filling:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
¼ cup cream
2 TB sugar
½ cup chopped pineapple
½ cup chopped strawberries
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Mix all together.

For the meringue:
¾ cup egg whites (6 eggs)
1 ½ cups sugar
2 tsp distilled white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp cornstarch

Using a mixer with the whisk attachment, beat whites at medium speed, about 2 minutes, until foamy. Gradually add in sugar, continuously whisking on medium-high speed, until thick and glossy with firm peaks, about 2 more minutes. Quickly whisk in vinegar, vanilla, and cornstarch. Do not overbeat; the meringue will become grainy.

To assemble:
Spray a 10 x 15-inch baking sheet with cooking spray, then line with parchment paper.

Using an offset spatula, spread meringue evenly over paper. Bake in a 325° oven for 23-25 minutes, until just firm on top and lightly browned. Let cool in pan for 2-3 minutes.

Place a kitchen towel on countertop and cover with parchment paper. Generously sprinkle parchment with powdered sugar.

Turn meringue onto parchment paper and let cool about 5 minutes. Evenly spread filling onto the meringue. Using parchment paper as a guide, gently roll up the Pavlova.

Place on a serving platter, seam side down, and refrigerate until set, about 3 hours. To serve, slice a generous helping, sprinkle powdered sugar over top, and add assorted berries – strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries.


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