Sliding down the bench, hands full, smile wide; I was making our dreams come true, after all. In one hand balanced a tower of fruit on a fluffy cloud, in the other, a pint of effervescent pivo: quite the pair. I quickly handed the beer over to my hungry boyfriend who had once again already consumed *too much sugar*, all before lunch, while trying to keep up with me and my pastry addiction. I marveled at strawberries glistening atop a lofty slice of meringue in a patch of sunlight on my paper plate. Reveling in a paradisaical feeling which abounded those few spring days in Prague, I tasted my first bite of pavlova shaded beneath the branches of a cherry tree fraught with puffy, pink blooms.
Nearly a year past and a few tinkering trials, now I can finally present to you my personal rendition. I like the triple “P” in it’s name, Pink Peppercorn Pavlova. Pepper is one of my favorite spices and I figured the pink corns would provide a blushing hint and light citrus scent to the standard egg white meringue. Ya know, just a little extra flair. When it came to the fresh fruit tower I couldn’t use berries out of season, but I wanted to stick to the red and pink color scheme, so I depended on winter citrus to do the trick and to give a healthy punch of vitamin C. Blood oranges and grapefruit were the perfect suspects to practice a newly learned supreme technique (Thanks, Saveur!) and adding pomegranate seeds was like sprinkling rubies.
For the meringue:
2 egg whites
½ cup fine white sugar
pinch of fine sea salt (I used pink Himalayan)
1 teaspoon cornstarch
½ teaspoon white vinegar
¼ teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon pink peppercorn, ground
For the whipped cream:
½ cup cold heavy cream
½ tablespoon fine white sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
For the fruit topping:
1 grapefruit and/or blood orange, supremed
1 pomegranate, seeds only
Grind peppercorns and 1 tablespoon of sugar with a mortar and pestle until mostly fine. Aerate in an open bowl on your counter for about 15 minutes.
Line a baking sheet with parchment. Trace a 6-inch circle in the center. Place the circle face-down on the sheet.
Mix the remaining sugar, cornstarch and ground pepper in a small bowl. Mix the vanilla and vinegar in a small cup.
Wipe the whisk and bowl of your stand mixer thoroughly with vinegar to ensure proper cleanliness. Preheat your oven to 275°F.
Drop egg whites and salt into the bowl of your stand mixer. Whisk on low speed while gradually increasing the speed to medium during the next 2 minutes. You should see soft peaks and a trail left behind the beater.
Begin adding the peppercorn sugar, tablespoon by tablespoon, one right after the other, while gradually increasing the speed to maximum. At maximum speed all of the sugar should be added. Whisk on maximum speed until stiff, glossy peaks form.
Stop the mixer. Sprinkle the vanilla and vinegar over the meringue. Whisk 20 seconds more.
Scrape the meringue into the middle of the circle on the baking sheet, letting it pile high rather than reach the edges of the circle. Smooth and shape your meringue with a spatula and your lightest touch. Work from the center towards the edge of the circle. Make the sides a bit taller so that later you can fill the center with whipped cream and fruit.
Place the meringue in the lower third of the oven, turn down the temperature to 250°F and bake for 45-55 minutes. Do not disturb your pavlova, by opening the oven door while it bakes, unless you know your oven bakes very unevenly and you think it best to quickly and gently turn it halfway through the bake time. It is best to avoid any drafts in order to increase your chances of a crack-free pavlova. But don’t worry if it cracks – ultimately it will be a gorgeous sight of fluffy pink, once you add the toppings.
Check that your meringue is lightly browned and sounds hollow when gently tapped with your fingers after 45 minutes of being in the oven; continue baking for 10 minutes or so, if it is not. Hearing the hollow sound means it’s time to turn off the oven and leave the pavlova to rest inside, with the door closed, for an additional 3 hours. Once again this is to avoid cracking, while also allowing it to finish setting.
Pour heavy cream, sugar and vanilla into your clean mixing bowl and whisk on maximum speed until medium peaks form, about 1 minute. Supreme your citrus fruit and remove the seeds from your pomegranate. Keep your whipped cream and fruit in the refrigerator until just before serving.
Gently move the pavlova from the baking sheet to a serving plate. Scrape and shape the whipped cream on top of your meringue. Top your pavlova with fruit and freshly cracked pink peppercorn.
Serve, eat and enjoy immediately. REPEAT.
Prep time: 30 minutes
Bake time: 45-55 minutes
Total time: 4 hours 15 minutes