How to Make The Best Pavlova
With her magnificently domed and airy pavlova, a Minneapolis pastry chef takes a traditional meringue dessert to new heights—literally. You can, too.
If you are one of Zoë François' 140,000+ Instagram followers, you need no introduction to this pavlova. Maybe you've even made it, following her signature how-to videos. "I've heard from people who have never baked before but have successfully made this recipe," says the teacher and cookbook author.
Most pavlovas start with a flat, wide meringue. Zoë shapes hers into a striking dome. The texture differs, too-very delicate, with a meltingly tender interior. And she zings up the classic filling of berries and cream with lemon curd and passion fruit.
Even though she's honed the recipe for years, Zoë swears pavlova isn't about perfection. After all, everything collapses into a sweet mess when you dig in. "Maybe it won't stand up perfectly or cracks a little in the oven," she says. "It's still beautiful, and it's definitely still going to be delicious."
Superfine or granulated sugar
Heavy whipping cream
Fresh, canned or frozen passion fruit
Step 1: Whip
Preheat oven to 300°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Trace a 6-inch circle on the paper and flip it over; set aside. (Don't plan to estimate the pavlova's size. Having a visible boundary line will ensure you shape the meringue up, not out.) In a large bowl, beat 4 egg whites and a pinch of salt with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until medium-stiff peaks form. Reduce speed to low; drizzle in 1⁄4 cup cold water. Gradually beat in 1 1⁄4 cups superfine sugar. (If you use granulated, rub the meringue between your fingers to be sure the sugar is fully dissolved. If it's not, keep beating.) Crank the speed to high; beat until stiff peaks form. Fold in 1 teaspoon each white vinegar and vanilla. Sift in 4 teaspoons cornstarch; fold in gently.
Step 2: Bake
Mound the meringue onto the circle you drew. Gently shape the sides using an offset or silicone spatula. (To re-create Zoë's pumpkin-like ridged dome, drag an offset spatula upward with a flick at the end, then repeat, working your way around.) Create a slight dip in the top. Bake on the center oven rack until the meringue starts to turn a very pale tan, about 30 minutes, then reduce heat to 275° and continue to bake for 45 minutes. Turn off the oven (don't open the door), turn on the oven light, and let the meringue rest for at least an hour, ideally several (or overnight). If it's humid, plan to store the pavlova in the oven (without opening the door), right up until serving.
Step 3: Assemble
Meanwhile, in a chilled large bowl, beat 1 cup whipping cream, 1 tablespoon powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla on medium speed until stiff peaks form. (To make whipped cream ahead, beat it slowly, not on high speed. "You get smaller air bubbles," Zoë explains, so the cream doesn't deflate in the fridge.) In a small bowl, stir 1⁄2 cup lemon curd until smooth. Slide a knife or offset spatula under the meringue to loosen it before peeling off the paper. Transfer to a plate. Fill with whipped cream, lemon curd, passion fruit and raspberries. Dust with powdered sugar and serve immediately.
Tip: Passion fruit is a tangy, custardy fruit with edible seeds. If you can't find fresh, buy it canned or frozen at Latin or Asian markets or online.
To know when meringue is ready, pull out the beater and flip it. If the tip curls, keep beating. For a final check, Zoë also turns the bowl upside down: The meringue shouldn't budge.
Get to Know: Zoë François
Decorated cakes as a teen at Ben & Jerry's. Co-author of the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day series. Blogs at zoebakes.com.