Pavlovas are a merengue dessert from Australia and New Zealand named after a famous Russian ballerina. Every time I hear the name, I think of Pavlov's dogs (psych anyone?). The fluffy texture is awesome, like a giant marshmallow.
This is a pretty easy recipe (from Joy of Baking) but looks super impressive when assembled. One important tip is to let your eggs come to room temperature; when they're warm, they whip much faster. I made that mistake and had to beat my cold egg whites forever. The vinegar acidity helps stabilize the merengue.
4 large egg whites
Scant 1 cup superfine sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon white vinegar (or lemon juice)
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
Pavlova: Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
With an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the sugar and beat until the meringue holds very stiff and shiny peaks.
Tip from Joy of Baking: Test if the sugar is fully dissolved by rubbing a little of the meringue between your thumb and index finger. The meringue should feel smooth, not gritty fro the sugar particles)
Beat in the vanilla extract, vinegar, cornstarch. Spread the meringue in two circles on the parchment paper. Form a slight dip in the center of the meringue to hold the whipped cream and fruit.
Bake for 60 to 75 minutes until the outside is dry and a pale cream color. Turn the oven off, and with the door slightly open, let the meringue cool completely in the oven.
The cooled meringue can be stored in a cool dry place, in an airtight container, for a few days. Just before serving gently place the meringue onto a serving plate. Layer with whipped cream and fruit. Serve immediately (this does not keep well)