Around our house, Valentine's Day is usually a family affair in lieu of a couple one. The day often begins with new books for the boys and a not-too-decadent chocolatey breakfast, and ends with something sweet to share over tales of classroom card exchanges and pre-teen dances. This year, there's also a secret plan in place to send anonymous candygrams to the female teachers from their male co-workers, a prime example of the fifth grade sense of humour hard at work.
I’m also making a plan to woo everyone to the table Thursday night with these pretty pink Pavlovas. I don’t think anything says, "I love you" quite like a crisp and chewy meringue base topped with billowy whipped cream and fresh tart berries. Well, some things do…like new cookbooks, and fancy tea kettles, and a few bottles of Cupcake, but on the homemade front, this sweet treat is about as good as it gets.
Do not be deterred by their seemingly precious appearance. If you can whip egg whites and sugar, and work a piping bag or plastic Ziploc, you can manage Pavlova. The work in getting them just right takes place in a low-temperature oven, leaving your hands free for other things. And because they’re easily made in advance I declare them practically perfect for busy weeknights, or when you’re expecting a house full of guests, and need something simple and impressive to serve.
Sweet Heart Pavlovas
Makes 6 - 3" hearts
For the Pavlova:
- 4 large egg whites, room temperature
- Pinch of salt
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Pink gel-paste food colouring (optional)
For the whipped cream:
- 1 cup cold whipping cream
- 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Fresh raspberries
- Powdered sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Trace six 3-inch hearts on a sheet of parchment paper. Flip the paper over so the hearts are on the reverse side (so the pencil markings don't end up on the Pavlova) and place it on a large baking sheet. Set aside.
2. Combine the egg whites and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. If you don't have a stand mixer use a clean mixing bowl and hand mixer. Beat the eggs on high until firm but not stiff, about 2 minutes.
3. With the mixer running on high speed, slowly add the sugar and beat until it forms firm and shiny peaks, about 4 minutes.
4. Remove the bowl from the mixer and sift the cornstarch over top of the eggs. Add the vinegar and vanilla and fold in lightly with a rubber spatula. Fill a large piping bag (or use a Ziploc bag with the corner snipped off) and pipe along the lines of the heart shapes on the parchment paper. Fill in the heart shape with the meringue mixture, then pipe a second border around the perimeter of the heart, on top of the first outline in order to create a well in the centre of the heart - this will hold the whipped cream and berries.
5. Bake for 90-150 minutes. When the edges of the pavlova are slightly golden in colour and peel easily from the parchment paper they are done. Turn off the oven, open the door slightly and let the Pavlovas cool completely.
6. While the Pavlovas bake and cool, wash and dry your mixing bowl and beat the whipping cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla until firm, taking care not to over beat (or you will end up with sweet butter).
7. To serve, fill the centre of the hearts with whipping cream and top with berries. Dust with a little extra powdered sugar, if desired, and serve.
- Cooled meringues can be stored in an airtight container for one to two days.
- Once the meringues have been topped with whipped cream and fruit they need to be served fairly immediately.