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A Show-stopping Strawberry & Thyme Pavlova

Written by: Austen Roe

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Inspired by fresh berries at the market, our eCommerce Manager, Austen, creates a towering, pillowy soft meringue dessert that will wow guests this spring.

Named for Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, the pavlova originated in the early 20th century in Australia. Unlike a classic baked meringue, which is baked until crisp all the way through, a pavlova is a mix of egg whites and sugar that's baked until the exterior is crisp but the interior remains a soft, delicate marshmallow. Usually made in one layer, a pavlova always features a topping of fresh fruit - commonly passionfruit and kiwi where the dessert is the most popular in Australia and New Zealand - and a sweet cream on the baked marshmallow base.


I've always loved the line that a pavlova walks between high-style and rustic appeal. Famous for being finicky and temperamental, a meringue will quickly darken if left in the oven too long or crack if exposed to cool air too quickly - no opening the oven to check allowed! An experiment in patience and trust, like a soufflé or macaron, the pavlova is all the more lovable for its inevitable flaws. While professionals strive for an impeccable finish, I'm happy with a few deep cracks - they add character, and I promise, it'll still taste amazing.


This is a dessert that's perfect for adapting to whatever's in season. I was inspired by the first spring berries at my last trip to the market, but I've made pavlovas with juicy late-summer stone fruits, zingy fresh lemon curd and tart winter citrus - the possibilities are endless. You can also experiment with size and shape: use the recipe below, but instead of creating a large, layered dessert make 8 individual servings - you'll be the hit of any gathering (warning: you'll probably be on the hook for desserts for the next few parties as well).

Strawberry Pavlova

For the Meringue 

Makes 2 10 in. discs to layer

Ingredients:

8 egg whites

1/2 tsp salt

2 1/2 cups white granulated sugar

4 tsps cornstarch

2 tsps white wine vinegar

1 tsp vanilla extract


Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350º. Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper. Tip: On the back of the paper, draw a circle slightly smaller than the cake plate you plan to use in pencil. Flip the paper over so that you have a guide, but your pencil mark doesn't come off on the meringue!
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the egg whites and salt and whip (slowly at first, increasing in speed) until satiny peaks form. Gradually beat in sugar a tablespoon at a time until meringue is stiff and shiny.
  3. Add cornstarch, vinegar and vanilla extract and fold in gently with a spatula. Split meringue evenly between the two baking sheets, using the spatula to shape into smooth disks the size of your cake plate.
  4. Place in oven and immediately reduce hear to 300º. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, then allow to completely cool in the oven.

For the Strawberry Topping 

Ingredients:

1 lb. strawberries, hulled and cut into a mix of halves and quarters

2 springs thyme, leaves only

1/2 tsp vanilla

1 tsp high-quality balsamic vinegar

2 tbsps granulated sugar


Method:

  1. In a bowl, combine ingredients and mix well. The sugar and vinegar will macerate the strawberries, creating a lush, juicy mixture perfect for topping to crisp meringue. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature at least 20 minutes (up to two hours).

For the Cream

Ingredients:

2 cups heavy cream

2 tbsps powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract


Method:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip all ingredients until medium peaks form.

Building the Dessert

On a platter, cake stand or plate, place your first meringue disc - careful, it's delicate! Spoon on half of the whipped cream and strawberry and thyme topping, leaving about an inch around the edge dry. Repeat with the second layer, spreading the cream and berries as close to the edge as you dare - I love when a few look like they're about to tumble off. Finish with a few fresh thyme leaves and serve immediately!


A close up shot of the strawberry topped pavlova on the citrine yellow glass cakestand from Caskata.

A note on perfection: If you're looking for a dessert that looks picture perfect every time, this isn't it. But, if you're willing to forgive the inevitable cracks or slightly lopsided build, you and your guests will be rewarded with a truly delicious treat. And, if all else fails and it falls apart before serving, just dish it up and call it an Eton Mess - I promise, it'll still be a hit.

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Caskata eCommerce Manager Austen

Austen Roe

With a background in merchandising, Austen came to Caskata in 2022 and works as Caskata's eCommerce Manager - working on everything from customer service to site merchandising and content creation. She's a new mom, and is slowly fixing up a Victorian in Salem, MA with her husband, their six-month-old daughter and little dog, Stu.

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