Three-Layer Berry and Brown Sugar Pavlova: Your Perfect Non-Chocolate-Lover’s Valentine’s Day Dessert
Do you know what a Pavlova is?
Well, I’ll tell you what it is. It’s a meringue dessert with whipped cream, sour cream, and berries that I’ve been craving for the last two weeks. That’s what it is.
Do you know what next Saturday is?
That’s right, it’s Valentine’s Day.
I made this particular dessert with Valentine’s Day in mind, knowing that all of you romantic folks out there would want to surprise your special someone with a delicious, color-appropriate dessert.
So here’s your answer!
Well, at least it’s one answer that I’ll offer up. The next one in a couple of days may just involve chocolate. Lots of deep, dark chocolate.
Usually meringues are baked free form on parchment paper. The meringue for this particular dessert is baked in a cake pan, leaving the outsides lightly toasted and the insides soft and marshmallowy and chewy. It’s hard to explain, really. When you take a bite of a Pavlova, it’s a heavenly contrast of tastes and textures; the cream mixture is smooth and tart, the berries are sweet, and the meringue crunches then melts in your mouth sort of like cotton candy, only 100,000 times tastier.
It comes with caveats, however.
If you’re looking for a neatly packaged dessert, sorry, but you’re going to have to look elsewhere. This is messy from the get-go and only gets messier when you eventually saw into it. Frankly, I suggest you wear a bib while eating it. One of the bibs with the pocket on the bottom would be ideal. A good third of my slice would have ended up in the pocket.
If you’re looking for a quick and easy home run, again, sorry, but you’re going to have to hop on Pinterest and choose something else. Maybe a simple box mix brownie cut into the shape of a heart with a red candy plopped on top or something else Pinterest-y like that.
If, however, you’re looking for a truly special dessert that your honey will go gaga over, and will remind you of its glory years from now when you’re older and grayer, then stay right where you are, and keep reading.
Recipe courtesy of: Epicurious.com
YIELD: Makes 8 servings
ACTIVE TIME: 30 min
TOTAL TIME: 2 1/2 hr
Confectioners sugar for dusting
1 cup superfine granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
3/4 cup egg whites (from 5 to 6 large eggs) at room temperature 30 minutes
1 1/2 pounds strawberries, trimmed and quartered
1 pound blackberries
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup chilled heavy cream
1/3 cup chilled sour cream
Preheat oven to 275°F with rack in middle. Lightly butter 3 (8-inch) round cake pans, then dust sides of pans with confectioners sugar, knocking out excess. Line bottom of each pan with a round of parchment paper.
(Set your pan on the parchment, trace around it, cut slightly inside the line, and place it inside of the buttered/sugared pan.)
Pulse superfine sugar, brown sugar, and cornstarch in a food processor until well combined.
Stir together vanilla and vinegar in a small bowl.
This recipe calls for 6 egg whites. That leaves you with quite a few extra egg yolks. About 6, as a matter of fact. Hold on to those yolks. Put them in a bowl with a tight lid and stick it in the fridge, because you’re going to use them with the next chocolate dessert option I put out here in a day or two. And the shells? Sure, you can toss them, unless you’re a tomato gardener like me, that is. If you are, then you’re going to want to rinse them and store them in a ziplock bag in the freezer because tomato plant roots love nothing better than a little eggshell for breakfast. Seriously.
Also, permit me to introduce you to your mixer’s whisk attachment. I know you favor the paddle attachment. I do too, but for this recipe, it’s critical to use the whisk.
Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt using an electric mixer at medium speed until they hold soft peaks.
Here’s what a soft peak looks like. Seconds after I took this photo, it collapsed in a wimpy heap. That’s a good thing.
Increase speed to medium-high and add sugar mixture 1 tablespoon at a time. After all sugar has been added, beat 1 minute more. Add vinegar mixture, then beat at high speed until meringue is glossy and holds stiff peaks, about 5 minutes.
This is what it will look like when it’s ready: Hokusai’s “The Great Wave Off Kanagawa”, as interpreted by stiffened meringue.
Spoon meringue into pans (about 2 1/2 cups per pan) and smooth tops.
Bake until meringues have a crisp crust and feel dry to the touch, about 1 hour (insides will still be marshmallow-like).
(Do not look at my stained up oven racks. Hey! I told you NOT to!)
Turn oven off and prop door open slightly with a wooden spoon. Cool meringues in oven 1 hour. (Meringues may sink slightly and crack while cooling.)
Run knife along sides of cake pans and carefully turn meringues out of pans. Carefully peel off parchment (meringues will be fragile and the crust may crack further). Carefully turn right side up.
Macerate fruit while meringues cool:
Toss berries with sugar and let stand at room temperature until ready to use (up to 1 hour).
And they’re done.
Beat heavy cream with sour cream using an electric mixer until it just holds soft peaks. (You might be tempted to add sugar or vanilla to the cream. Resist the temptation. The tanginess of this filling really elevates the whole dessert.) Put 1 meringue on a serving plate and spread one-third of whipped cream over it. Let a little hang over the edge to give your dessert gawkers a little view of the yummy filling.
Spoon one-third of fruit (with juice) over the top.
Repeat with remaining meringues, cream, and fruit.
Then saw into it, plate it, and enjoy!
Oh my. It’s tangy yet sweet and crunchy yet melt-in-your-mouth glorious!
Oh, and don’t forget the bib!
Three-Layer Berry and Brown Sugar Pavlova
- 1 cup superfine granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
- 3/4 cups egg whites (at room temperature for 30 minutes)
- 1 1/2lb strawberries (trimmed and quartered)
- 1lb raspberries
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 cup heavy cream (chilled)
- 1/3 cup sour cream
- 3 tablespoons powdered sugar (for dusting)
Or try this other equally decadent dessert on for size when honoring your sweetie: Candy Apple Pie.