A pavlova dessert is a perfect choice to serve after your Passover seder. It is very light, not overly sweet, and a lovely way to end an evening following a very good meal. This recipe is matzah-free and gluten-free.
A pavlova consists of layers: first the baked meringue, made of egg whites and sugar, then the cream of your choice, topped with fresh fruit.
In spring, I prefer to use fresh berries, but you can use mango, kiwi, pineapple or whichever mixture of fresh fruit that you like best. In-season fruit always tastes better.
You can make dairy or pareve whipped cream very easily at home, or even purchase whipped cream to add to the top if you’re short on time.
This is a recipe that I make year-round, even for birthdays. If you double the recipe, you can make two meringues that you can then fill and top with fruit and berries, creating a layered cake appearance.
For the pavlova base:
4 egg whites, room temperature. (This is important: Place the eggs on the counter a few hours in advance.)
¾ cup, plus 1 extra tablespoon white sugar
2 tablespoons potato starch, sifted
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat your oven to 250 F, and place the baking rack on the middle shelf.
Using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites on medium for 4 minutes, until they start to appear creamy.
Add ¾ cup of the sugar, one spoonful at a time. Turn the mixer to high and let it mix for 4-5 more minutes, until the mixture creates stiff peaks. You can test this by dipping a spoon into the mixture and pulling it straight up. If the mixture stands straight and stiff like a mountain peak, it’s ready to go. If it collapses, mix for a few more minutes on high. It is important to mix thoroughly on high speed to keep the egg whites from separating later.
In a small bowl, mix the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar with the potato starch. Using a rubber spatula, fold the potato starch and sugar mixture into the egg whites by hand. Once mixed in, fold in the vinegar and vanilla by hand.
Cover a baking sheet with lightly greased parchment paper. Use the rubber spatula to turn the meringue onto the baking sheet, spreading it into a circle with a well in the center and a rim around the edge. Don’t worry about making it perfect, just spread the meringue as evenly as possible.
Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until lightly golden brown.
Turn off the oven and let cool in a closed oven for an additional hour, then remove from the oven and let cool 1 more hour before adding the whipped cream topping of your choice.
2 cups heavy cream or a pareve substitute, like Rich’s Whip
2 tablespoons white sugar
If your kitchen is very warm, I suggest putting the metal mixing bowl and whisk attachment into the freezer for at least half an hour before preparing.
Using the same stand mixer and whisk attachment, place the cream into the metal bowl and whip on medium speed for a few minutes. When it starts to thicken, add the sugar and raise the speed to high until stiff peaks form. It usually takes 7-8 minutes for the cream to come together. Because the base is sweeter, I prefer to use a little less sugar in the cream. You can add more sugar to taste, 1 tablespoon at a time, to get it to your preferred taste.
Using a rubber spatula, spread the whipped cream over the top of the meringue, with more whipped cream in the center, spreading out to the rim at the side.
Add 3 cups of fresh fruit to the top. If your fruit is still dripping from washing it, don’t add it until it has dried.
You can make the meringue bottom one day in advance, and keep in a dry, warm place. When I do this, I do not cover with plastic wrap. I often will put it into a cupboard to keep it clean and out of the way.
You can also make the whipped cream up to 1 day in advance — just cover it and keep it refrigerated until you’re ready to put the pavlova together. I don’t suggest putting the cream on the pavlova a day in advance because it can make the meringue a little soft, and the crispy edges are one of the best parts.
It truly only takes 5 minutes to add the cream and berries. You can do it minutes before serving.
I hope you enjoy making and eating this pavlova and I wish you and your families a happy Passover! PJC
Jessica Grann is a home chef living in Pittsburgh.