I made these for my friend's baby shower recently. A pavlova is crispy meringue with a soft center. You typically serve it with whipped cream and fruit on top. Berries are usually the preferred fruit topping which makes this more of a summer dessert, but you could really put anything on top. They make a beautiful presentation and are really not very difficult to make.
adapted from joyofbaking.com
4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp white vinegar
1/2 TBSP cornstarch
1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F and place rack in center of oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and draw 12-2 1/2 inch circles on the paper. Turn the parchment paper over so the circles are on the reverse side.
2. In the bowl of your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium speed until they hold soft peaks. Start adding the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, and continue to beat, on high speed, until the meringue holds very stiff and shiny peaks. Beat in the vanilla extract. Sprinkle the vinegar and cornstarch over the top of the meringue and, with a rubber spatula, gently fold in.
3. Spread the meringue inside each circle drawn on the parchment paper, smoothing the edges, making sure the edges of the meringue are slightly higher than the center. (You want a slight well in the center of the meringue to place the whipped cream and fruit.)
4. Bake for 60 to 75 minutes or until the outside is dry and is a very pale cream color. Turn the oven off, leave the door slightly ajar, and let the meringue cool completely in the oven. (The outside of the meringue will feel firm to the touch, if gently pressed, but as it cools you will get a little cracking and you will see that the inside is soft and marshmallowy.)The cooled meringue can be made and stored in a cool dry place, in an airtight container, for a few days.
To serve: Just before serving gently place the meringue onto a serving plate. Whip 1 cup of heavy whipping cream, in your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, until soft peaks form. Add 1/4 cup powdered sugar, and beat until stiff peaks form. (Or you can use cool whip.) Mound the whipped cream into the center of the meringue. Arrange the fruit randomly, or in a decorative pattern, on top of the cream. Serve immediately as this dessert does not hold for more than a few hours.
Makes 12 mini pavlovas
Note: You can also make one large pavlova using the same recipe and baking method. Just make one 7 inch circle.