Mixed Berry Pavlova

At long last summer is finally here. I knew for sure when I left my car sitting in the sun for hours one day and when I opened the door I could actually see the waves of heat rolling out. I’m probably a bit demented for it but somehow I love it so much. I love the thick heavy air, lounging around on lazy Sundays with shorts and an old t-shirt, and living off of whichever fruits and vegetables happen to be in a state of overpopulation at the moment.  And if this summer is just as fleeting as it always seems to be, then I best start really taking advantage of it all.

So why not start will an excess of berries.

I may have gotten a little overzealous with my fruit purchases at the farmers market yesterday. What started as a couple pieces of fruit turned into a half dozen peaches plus a pint each of raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries. But I don’t regret it one bit; they’re as perfect as any summer fruit can be, impossibly juicy and sweet. I’ll probably just enjoy most of them on their own or with yogurt for breakfast but I did set aside some of the berries for a refreshing and delicate pavlova as a mid-day dessert.

It sounds fancy, but in truth it’s a pretty humble, near effortless dish that is exactly what dessert should be like on the hottest of days. You whip up a batch of meringue, dollop it onto a baking sheet into something slightly resembling a bowl shape, and bake them off. You top the finished meringues with some whipped cream, an assortment of honey-drenched berries, and a bit of mint, and that’s just about it.

The meringue is nicely chewy and crispy but a softened somewhat by the sweet berry juices and the cream just sort of binds it all into one cohesive dessert. You can make several smaller meringues for individual desserts for a dinner party or one giant colossal meringue for a show-stopping dessert that everyone can just simply attack and devour.  Whichever works though, if you’ve got some beautiful ripe berries it’s going to be delicious regardless.

Mixed Berry Pavlova
Serves 6-8
Adapted from Gwyneth Paltrow’s My Father’s Daughter

4 egg whites
a pinch of salt
½ tsp. white vinegar
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 Tbs. cornstarch
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups fresh berries (I used raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries)
1 Tbs. honey
a few sprigs of mint, for serving

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the egg whites, vinegar, and the salt in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Whip on high speed until soft peaks form, about 3 minutes. While this whips, combine the sugar with the cornstarch in a small bowl. Add the sugar and cornstarch to the egg mixture in thirds, whipping on high speed for about 30 seconds after each addition. Once completely incorporated, add the vanilla and continue to beat until still peaks form.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Dollop the meringue onto the baking sheet in 8 small mounds, 4 medium mounds, or 1 large mound. However many you make, use a spoon to spread each dollop into a circular shape and create a bit of an indent in the center of each. Bake for 10 minutes. Then, decrease the oven temperature to 200 degrees and bake for another hour. Once finished, turn off the oven, prop open the oven door with a wooden spoon handle and let the meringues rest in the oven for an additional hour.

Once the meringue is cool, whip the cream with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Warm the honey in the microwave for about 5 seconds and pour over the berries. Mix to combine. Divide the cream evenly over the meringue and then do the same with the berries. Top each with a sprig of mint.