If ever there was a dessert meant for Passover, it's this one: mini strawberry Pavlovas.
So, what's a Pavlova, anyway?
It's an Australian dessert named for the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova (so the story goes), following one of her tours through Australia. Traditionally it's a large, thick meringue disk – hard and crisp on the outside, soft and pillowy on the inside – topped with whipped cream and berries or other fruit. Made this way, it's sliced into wedges to serve.
Sized individually, mini Pavlovas are just as impressive, not to mention great for entertaining as they're so easy to make and serve.
Why are mini Pavlovas so brilliant for Passover?
Let me count the ways:
1. There's no flour, making the dessert welcome at the Passover table.
2. They star strawberries, just as the fruit comes into the full flush of its season.
3. They're beautiful and impressive-looking, yet easy and fool-proof to make.
4. You can make their meringue bases ahead of time – even the day before – and cut and macerate the berries in advance. All that's left to do last-minute is whip cream and assemble the Pavlovas, which is no harder than assembling strawberry shortcake. They're easy enough to manage during the craziness of a seder.
Pavlovas aren't just for Passover
Pavlovas are having a moment in restaurants – at least here in Dallas, where one of the city's top pastry chefs, Keith Cedotal, is turning out beautiful individually sized versions, filled with citrus mousse and mixed berries, at fashionable Mirador restaurant.
Besides being chic and delicious, Pavlovas also happen to be gluten-free – just the thing for gluten-intolerant berry lovers who are accustomed to passing up the strawberry shortcake.
When I say Pavlovas are easy to make, I'm not kidding. All you do is whip up some egg whites, beat in sugar and, if you like, a touch of lemon or orange liqueur. If you want to get fancy, add some lemon zest. Spoon them into messy circles on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for less than an hour, till they're light golden and hard to the touch.
Layer them with whipped cream and strawberries (macerated in a touch of lemon liqueur or orange liqueur if you like), and there you are. If they're messy, or the meringues break that's OK – disheveled is part of their charm.
Brilliant, right? Here's the recipe: