Making meringue can be tricky. Try to think of the three ‘S’’s: stable, smooth and slow. They key to a well-baked and minimally cracked pavlova shell is a STABLE egg foam. This is achieved by beating the eggs on a moderate speed to create uniform air bubbles and SLOWLY adding the sugar so it can have a chance to fully dissolve, without deflating the air that’s being beaten in. The meringue must be SMOOTH before baking or any of those grains of undissolved sugar will weep and cause cracks.
Make the meringue: Preheat the oven to 275˚ F. Trace a 9-inch circle on a sheet of parchment paper, then flip it over and use it to line a baking sheet (you should be able to see the circle through the paper).
Combine the egg whites, cream of tartar and salt in a large bowl and beat with a mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form, 2 to 4 minutes. With the mixer still on, gradually sprinkle in the sugar (about 1 tablespoon at a time), beating 20 to 30 seconds between additions to be sure the sugar dissolves completely. After the sugar is incorporated, continue to beat on medium speed until the meringue is very thick, shiny, stiff and totally smooth, 5 to 10 more minutes (check occasionally by rubbing a bit between your fingers to feel for any sugar granules). Add the cornstarch, vanilla and vinegar and beat to just combine, 20 to 30 more seconds.
Mound the meringue in the middle of the traced circle on the baking sheet and spread into a 9-inch round. Make a slight indentation in the center for the toppings, then use an offset spatula or the back of a spoon to make swoops in the meringue. Place in the oven on the middle rack, then immediately reduce the temperature to 225˚ F. Bake until crisp and dry, about 2 1/2 hours (do not open the oven during baking); the meringue should still be white or a very pale cream color. Turn off the oven and let the meringue cool completely in the oven, 2 to 3 hours.
Make the toppings: Toss the strawberries and pineapple in separate small bowls with 1 teaspoon sugar each; let stand 15 to 20 minutes until juicy. In a medium bowl, whisk the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Carefully peel the meringue off the parchment and place on a platter. Top with small scoops of ice cream, nestling the banana slices between the scoops. Top with the whipped cream, strawberries, pineapple, hot fudge, cherries and peanuts.
Tools You May Need
Photograph by Mike Garten
Tools You May Need
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