Do you ever find yourself saying "I need to eat less sugar and fewer sweets"? I am a self-proclaimed sugar addict and I blame my husband for all of it. He works from home and is always scavenging for some treat we’ve hidden from our kids. I grew up in a house with a cardiologist father who touted a Mediterranean diet. Our refrigerator consisted of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain bread, plain yogurts, skim milk, salmon and wheat germ.
Israeli salad was a staple of our diet and still is to this day. On the other hand, my mother was a fabulous baker so we often had around apple tarts, flourless chocolate tortes, almond cookies, and other fancy European desserts. Of course these included sugar, however, her desserts were never overly sweet, always balanced. When my husband and I moved in together, I was appalled by his unhealthy diet, devoid of fresh produce or a mention of whole grain. He also had a predilection for white cake with thick sugary frosting. Yuk. That was then.
Fast forward 5 years. I am not a fabulous baker like my mother, he still loves unhealthy sweets and when he brings home a box of Oreos, I no longer flinch in disgust, rather I eat 4 of them in quick succession. Over the past year, we began to discuss eliminating sugar from our diet. Although we definitely eat more fruit and fresh vegetables, we are somehow unable to kick our need for a sugar fix. In an attempt to consume 'healthier desserts’, I began baking my favorite dessert, pavlova. Pavlova consists of a base of meringue, some fresh cream and fresh fruit on top. My pavlovas consist of 5 ingredients because that's how I like to cook/bake. The meringue is made by beating egg whites with sugar and then dried in the oven. The cream is a white chocolate ganache which is cream mixed with melted white chocolate, cooled and whipped to stiff peaks. The 5th ingredient is fruit - whatever fruit you desire. This dessert is a nice counterbalance to traditional heavier cake frosted in buttercream as it is light, airy, sweet, tart and guilt free. I say guilt free because i tend to eat 3-4 portions of dessert as if it were just one. With pavlova you dont feel it. Ever heard "I'm just straightening the cake"?
This dessert is celiac friendly as its gluten-free. It could probably be made dairy free and parve with whipped coconut cream instead of the ganache. Its the perfect Passover dessert and could be my last meal on earth.
I'm not going to lie, meringue is a finicky animal as it took dozens of eggs and countless bake-athons to produce a light, airy and uncracked meringue. Don't be discouraged as it may take a few tries to get the heat/bake time of your oven just right.
120 grams (or 4 large egg whites).
240 grams superfine or regular sugar (i like to measure it out so there's a 2:1 ratio of sugar to egg whites)
Preheat the oven to 400°F and place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Measure out the sugar and heat it in the oven for 4-5 minutes. When you add hot sugar into whipped egg whites, it helps to dissolve the sugar crystals which may lead to cracking while baking. after you take the sugar out of the oven, lower the heat to 185°F.
In a large bowl of a heavy-duty mixer, fitted with whisk attachment, whip egg whites, starting on low, increasing incrementally to medium speed until soft peaks start to become visible, and the egg whites don't move when you hold the bowl over your head, approximately 2 to 3 minutes.
Increase speed to medium-high, slowly and gradually sprinkling in the heated sugar. Increase speed a bit and whip until meringue is thick and glossy, 4 to 5 minutes.
Gently spread the meringue into whatever shape you please. You could make mini pavlovas, a heart, a rainbow, a circle, etc...
Bake for 2 hours and then turn the oven off without opening the oven door. Leave in the oven for 30 more minutes.
White chocolate ganache
1 cup white chocolate
2 cups of heavy cream
Melt 1 cup of white chocolate (chips or a bar broken up into pieces) with 1 cup of heavy cream in the microwave for 30-second increments until the chocolate is just melted. Stir together and cool in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight.
Whip 1 cup of heavy cream and when it starts to thicken, add the cooled white chocolate ganache beating the cream until firm. Be careful not to over-beat.
When the meringue is cooled, put it on a plate. Spread the top with the ganache. Add the fruit and enjoy! It really is that simple. You can arrange the fruit and create a rainbow or some other motif and people are always so impressed. Also, my kids love decorating pavlova because they can eat fruit while they decorate and also be creative with the colors and pattern (on at least half the cake as you can see). And why rainbows? Because rainbows make people smile.