The Accidental Scientist: Science of Cooking Exploratorium
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recipe: Pavlova

A beaten egg white can foam to eight times its original volume. Soufflés, angel food cakes, and meringue all make use of the exceptional foaming powers of egg whites.

Why do egg whites foam?

Pavlova is a lovely, light dessert made in a meringue shell. This dessert uses only the whites of eggs. Consider making this dish for desert when your meal includes hollandaise sauce, which uses only egg yolks!

Why is this dessert called Pavlova?

Recipe Conversions

(Note: Recipe annotations will appear in a new window.)

   
What Do I Need? .spacer
4 egg whites at room temperature    Why does the temperature matter?
2/3 cup finely granulated white sugar
4 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar  
1 teaspoon vanilla extract  
1 cup heavy whipping cream  
approximately 1 cup fresh fruit (kiwis and strawberries are traditional)  
 
a pastry bag and star tips (a pastry bag is not essential, it just makes your meringue shell prettier)  
 baking parchment paper  
 a baking sheet  
 a bowl (glass, stainless steel, or copper is best)    Why can’t I use a plastic bowl?  
 a mixer, an egg beater, or a wire whisk    Is there any advantage to using a whisk?  
   
What Do I Do?

 

1. Set your oven to 250 F.

 

   

2. Put the egg whites in the bowl. Add the vinegar. Beat the egg whites until fluffy.

Why add vinegar?

 

3. Once the egg whites are fluffy, slowly add sugar.

Why not add sugar at the beginning?
 

4. When the egg whites are very stiff, add the cornstarch and the vanilla, whisking a few more turns. Do not overwhisk here!

Can overbeaten egg whites be salvaged?

 

5. Wet the baking parchment paper, crinkle it up, line the baking sheet with it. Draw a circle on the parchment paper as a guide for the meringue, then turn it over.

Add a tip to your pastry bag. (Star tips, open or closed, work well). Fill your pastry bag about half full with the egg foam and twist it closed. Squeeze the pastry bag and make a meringue circle about 10 inches in diameter on the wax paper. If you don’t have a pastry bag, use a spoon to mound the meringue on the wax paper and make a well in the middle, creating a bowl-shaped shell.

   
6. When your circle is done, pipe a bunch of stars along the edge. Keep piping higher and higher until you have a nice deep bowl.
   
7. Put the meringue in the oven. After 45 minutes, turn the heat off. Leave the meringue in for another hour, or until it is completely cool. You can even leave it overnight.
   
8. While the meringue is in the oven, cut up your fruit.
   
9. Remove the meringue bowl from the oven. Make sure it’s nice and cool—if it’s still warm, wait and try again in a little while.
   
10. Whisk the cream until until it’s stiff.  
   
11. Fill the meringue bowl with whipped cream and put the fruit on top for a delicate, airy treat.
   

12. Serve promptly, so the meringue doesn’t get soggy from the cream.

Uh oh! My meringue shell broke! How can I save this dessert?

 

 

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