Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Pavlova with Lemon Curd and Blueberries

My friend Caroline is allergic to gluten. For a baker/ pastry chef, this can seem like an obstacle but actually there are plenty of desserts that do not contain gluten: flourless chocolate cakes, macarons, ice cream, just to name a few.

At first I attempted to make a gluten-free cake using Betty Crocker Gluten-Free cake mix. It turned out absolutely disgusting. The cake did not rise properly and had the most terrible texture: similar to a wet sponge. It reminded me of this Vietnamese rice cake we would eat at Chinese New Year but not as tasty. I could not imaging frosting it with chocolate frosting as pictured on the box.

Since the gluten-free cake mix was a total FAIL, I had to make another dessert. Because it was summer, I felt like making something fresh and with fruit. A pavlova was perfect: gluten-free, I had all the ingredients and Caroline loves Australia. The pavlova is the national dessert of Australia.

I found this recipe on Epicurious. It is a great recipe because the entire egg is used in the recipe: the whites for the meringues and the yolks for the curd. Also you don't need to buy superfine sugar. You can just pulse white granulated sugar in the food processor a few times.

To read more about being gluten-free, check out this article in the NY Times: The Expense of Eating With Celiac Disease (Did you know that in England, patients with Celiac disease are actually prescribed gluten-free products? And in Italy, they receive a stipend to purchase gluten-free products? Yet in America where we supposedly have the best health care system in the world...)

Pavlova with Lemon Curd and Blueberries

For meringue:

1 cup superfine granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 large egg whites at room temperature 30 minutes
3 tablespoons cold water
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar

For filling:

2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 stick unsalted butter
3 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 cup heavy cream
4 cups mixed berries


Make meringue:
Preheat oven to 300°F 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 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 tablespoon 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 hand-held mixer).

Gently spread meringue inside circle on parchment, making edge of meringue slightly higher than center (the "crater" is for curd and fruit). Bake until meringue is pale golden and has a crust, about 45 minutes (inside will still be marshmallow-like).

Turn oven off and prop door open slightly with a wooden spoon. Cool meringue in oven 1 hour.

Make Lemon curd while meringue bakes:
Stir together sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a 2-quart 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 cup 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 let boil). Transfer to a bowl and stir in zest. Chill, surface covered with parchment, until cool, about 1 1/2 hours.

Assemble Pavlova:
Beat heavy cream until it just holds stiff peaks, then fold 1/4 cup beaten cream into curd to lighten. Spoon lemon curd into meringue and mound berries on top. Serve remaining whipped cream on the side.


  1. This is awesome!! Could you do a whole series on this? I have a friend who can't do gluten or large amounts of dairy (chocolate is mostly ok...milk and cheese, not so much) and I try so hard to come up with things for us to eat together.

  2. I will do my best! Gluten-free isn't really that challenging. In fact, most Mexican and practically all Asian food is relatively gluten-free

  3. ...from the james beard newsletter today:

    WHAT? Dancer's dessert. Named for the world-famous Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, this fruit, whipped cream, and meringue dessert is claimed by rival nations. Aussies have long considered it their national dessert, but New Zealanders argue that they were the ones who invented it.

    The truth? It depends on who's telling the story. Chef Herbert Sachse of the Esplanade Hotel in Perth, Australia, is often credited with creating the dessert in 1935 (supposedly the dish acquired its name after someone proclaimed his dessert was "as light as Pavlova"). But others insist the dish was first made by a New Zealand chef inspired by Pavlova's frilly, white costume in her most famous role, the Dying Swan.

    According to cookbook author Bonnie Stern, the filling in a pavlova should be tart to offset the sweetness of the meringue roll. Though many New Zealand chefs use—can you guess?—kiwi for the filling, Stern makes hers with lemon curd.

    WHEN? Australian chef Adrian Richardson will serve his signature passion fruit and berry pavlova at the Melbourne's Modern Mediterranean dinner at the Beard House on September 2.


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