Mini Pavlovas with Strawberries and Pistachio Praline Cream

Mini Pavlovas with Strawberries and Pistachio Praline Cream

A light, meringue-based dessert from Australia and New Zealand, pavlova is most commonly made for the Christmas holidays, which occur Down Under during the warm summer months. While pavlova is angelic in look and taste, it's also a bit controversial: Originally made for Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova in the early 1900s, both countries claim it as their own. The dessert's origin is fun to debate, and it's even more fun to make, especially in miniature single servings.

Pavlova is typically topped with tart tropical fruits like kiwi and passion fruit to cut the inherent sweetness of the sugary meringue; however, I think it also pairs nicely with strawberries and a little pistachio praline cream.

Pavlova (Meringue):
4 egg whites
¾ cups castor sugar
½  teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon white vinegar
½  tablespoon cornstarch

Preheat oven to 250° F, and place rack in center of oven. Draw 10, 2½ inch circles on a piece of parchment paper; flip paper over (pencil side down) and place on a half sheet pan.

With whisk attachment, beat egg whites on medium until soft peak stage. Add sugar a little at a time, and beat on high until the meringue holds stiff peaks and sugar is fully dissolved (when you rub a bit of meringue between your fingers it should no longer feel grainy). Beat in the vanilla extract. Sprinkle the vinegar and cornstarch over the top of the meringue and fold in with a spatula.

Fit a pastry bag with a large star tip and pipe meringue circles on the parchment paper (I like to pipe two circles on top of one another for height). Fill the hole slightly until you can no longer see the parchment (don't fill all the way to the top).

Bake for about an hour or until the outside is dry. Turn the oven off and let the meringues cool completely in the oven with door ajar.

Strawberries in Sugar Syrup:
2 pints strawberries
¼ cup sugar
Sprinkle the strawberries with the sugar and let sit for at least 30 minutes.

Pistachio Praline Cream:

½ cup pistachios, unsalted and unshelled
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup water
8 ounces heavy cream

Preheat oven to 250° F. Spread pistachios evenly on a small sheet pan and toast in the oven for about 10 minutes. When done, take out of oven and set aside. Meanwhile, mix sugar and water inside a small sauce pan (brushing the insides of the pan with water until all sugar crystals have dissolved), and boil until it reaches the caramel stage. Pour caramelized sugar over pistachios and allow to cool. Once cool, break up into pieces and pulse inside a food processor (I like a fine to medium chop). Fold most into whipped cream, reserving some to sprinkle on top.

When ready to assemble, pipe pistachio praline cream inside and around the rim of the meringues, sprinkle remaining praline on the cream, then top with strawberries (use a slotted spoon if you don't want too much juice on your pavlovas.