Did you ever have History Day in school as a kid? Where you have to dress up as a famous historical figure and recite their biography—and your mom and teacher pray you don't pick someone like Pinochet or Hitler?
Well, when I was a kid I was pretty obsessed with ballet. I started classes around age three and continued dancing pretty seriously through middle school. Then I became incredibly self-conscious about my body—ballerinas typically don't grow boobs—and decided to take a break. I took some classes in college and have always found a class or two to take in each city I've lived in because I think once you've learned to move your body a certain way to certain music, it's in you forever.
So, for History Day at Round Meadow Elementary (go Colts!) I dressed up as Anna Pavlova—the light-as-air ballerina, for whom this light-as-air dessert was named.
A pavlova is made of layers of baked meringue—crispy on the outside and slightly chewy and marshmallowy on the inside—layered with some sort of whipped cream and fruit. Each layer adds a different texture and level of sweetness that you can play around with—it's so versatile!
Even though it isn't technically summer yet, the college students have left town, the farmers market has started, and the first decent strawberries have arrived. You know, not the ones that taste like a whole lotta dirt and vaguely of berry? These are the real deal.
The scent of strawberries cooking on the stove is one of the quintessential smells of summer to me—much better than deet, which I also associate with the season. It reminds of when I would drag my husband to the U-Pick berry farm, convince him that we actually needed all 30 pounds of strawberries, and then spend hours making jar after jar of jam in my tiny hot, sweaty Kentucky kitchen.
This recipe also uses whipped mascarpone cheese, in addition to whipping cream. It creates such a rich and creamy mouth-feel—in contrast to the crispy meringue—and the flavor really can't be beat.
So, without further ado, fuete on down to the recipe.
TO MAKE THIS RECIPE YOU WILL NEED:
For the meringue:
5 egg whites, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
For the strawberries:
2 cups of strawberries, hulled and sliced
1-2 tablespoons honey, depending on how sweet the berries are
For the whipped mascarpone:
4 ounces mascarpone cheese
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 cup cold whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
Make the meringue. Preheat your oven to 400. Line a rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle sugar in an even layer on top. Place sheet in hot oven and warm sugar for 5 minutes—set a timer! Warming the sugar helps it dissolve more easily into the egg whites. While your sugar is warming, add your egg whites to the bowl of a stand mixer, making sure that no yolk makes it in. Begin with the mixer on low and let the yolks get frothy. Increase the speed slowly to high and continue beating until stiff peaks form-about 5-6 minutes.
Give 'em some suga. Remove the sugar from the oven and carefully add it to the egg whites 1-tablespoonful at a time, with the mixer on high. Keep adding the sugar until it's all been incorporated and stiff, glossy peaks have formed—about 5-7 minutes.
Bring down the heat. Reduce the oven temp to 200. Line the cookie sheet with some more parchment. If the parchment you used for the sugar is in good condition you can reuse it. Divide the meringue into two even piles on the parchment and use a spatula to shape them into 8-inch circles. Bake for about 90 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
Meanwhile... cook your strawberries on the stove in a small sauce pan with the honey over medium heat until the berries begin to break down a bit and the liquid begins to thicken. Remove from the heat and let cool.
Whip it good. In the bowl of a mixer, combine mascarpone and sugar and whip until well combined, about a minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add in the whipping cream and vanilla, begin with the mixer on low, and slowly increase the speed to high. Whip until the mixture has thickened to consistency of whipped cream.
Time to assemble. Begin with a meringue disk, then spoon some of the whipped mascarpone mixture on top, spreading it to the edges. Spoon some of the strawberries on top and repeat the layers one more time.