Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Airy, light, and naturally gluten-free, pavlova is about as close to heaven as dessert can be. A crispy crust protects a marshmallowy interior that will surprise and delight even the most discerning meringue critic. Named after the russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, this dessert is like a little dance of flavors and textures: crunchy, soft, sweet, tart, and absolutely beautiful.

1 c. superfine granulated sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
3 large egg whites at room temperature 30 minutes
3 Tbsp cold water
1 tsp distilled white vinegar

2/3 c. granulated sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
1/3 c. fresh lemon juice
1/2 stick unsalted butter
3 large egg yolks
2 tsp grated lemon zest
1 c. heavy cream
5 c. mixed berries and fruits (blackberries, strawberries, mango, kiwi, raspberries, and blueberries)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees with rack in middle. Trace an approximately 7-inch circle on a sheet of parchment paper. turn parchment over and put on a baking sheet. Whisk together superfine sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt using an electric mixer at medium speed until they hold soft peaks, Add water (whites will loosen) and beat until whites again hold soft peaks. Increase speed to medium-high and beat in sugar mixture 1 Tbsp at a time. After all sugar has been added, beat 1 minute more. Add vinegar and beat at high speed until meringue is glossy and holds stiff peaks, about 5 minutes (longer if using a hand-held mixer). Gently spread meringue inside circle on parchment, making edge of meringue slightly higher than the center. Bake until meringue is pale golden and has a crust, about 45 minutes. (For best results, keep oven door closed as much as possible during baking). Turn oven off and prop door open slightly with a wooden spoon. Cool meringue in oven 1 hour. 
Stir together sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a 2 qt. heavy saucepan, then add lemon juice and butter. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, whisking, then continue to simmer, whisking constantly, 1 minute. Lightly beat yolks in a small bowl and whisk in 1/4 c. lemon mixture, then whisk into remaining lemon mixture in saucepan. REduce heat to low and cook, whisking constantly, until curd is thickened, about 2 minutes (do not boil). Transfer to a bowl and stir in zest. chill, surfaced covered with parchment, until cook, about 1-1/2 hours. 
Beat heavy cream until it just holds stiff peaks, then fold 1/4 c. beaten cream into curd to lighten. Spoon lemon curd into meringue and mound berries and fruit on top. Serve remaining whipped cream on the side.

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