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Kohlman: Pavlova with lemon curd and berries

Mini pavlova with lemon curd (supplied photo) (for Renee Kohlman column)
Mini pavlova with lemon curd (supplied photo) (for Renee Kohlman column)

There’s a heaviness to the world that I’ve never felt before. Fear, anxiety, that whole ball of wax, just makes me want to retreat to the kitchen and create delicious things to eat. That room of the house has always been my sanctuary. Standing at the counter, I feel my shoulders release from my ears as I prep meals and bake sweet things to eat. There’s something about the methodical motions of chopping, stirring, mixing, and folding that get me out of my head, even for a little while. Looking forward (one must always look forward) to spring, and lighter desserts, I arrive in pavlova land. Believe me, it’s a good place to be.

Pavlova is a springtime classic and takes little effort to make so pretty. Crisp on the outside with a chewy middle, the meringues makes an excellent vehicle for tangy lemon curd, fresh berries and whipped cream. I’m so into it. You can make one giant meringue then heap on all of the fun stuff, or you can make small meringues and have individual pavlova for your guests. I went the latter route.

The lemons are squeezed of their juice. The acidity has reached into all of the dry cracks in my hands, thanks to the explosive amounts of hand washing they’ve undergone. It’s a small price to pay. Soon the lemon juice is transformed into a thick sunshine yellow curd, which is something so good you’ll want to have a jar in the fridge at all times. It’s a great midnight snack when spread on hot buttered toast. I’ve got a mixing bowl of egg whites that, when combined with a good amount of air and sugar, evolve into stiff peaks of meringue. Their lofty loveliness always puts a smile on my face. The little meringue nests only take about an hour in the oven, but you’ll want to check in early so they don’t overbake. Ideally, you still want some chewiness in the middle. I like to heap fresh berries onto my pavlova, but segments of citrus, slices of kiwi, even a compote made with frozen fruit would do the trick. Grab a fork, tuck in, and carry on.

Pavlova with Lemon Curd and Berries

Light and lemony, this is a stunning dessert that will shine on any Easter table. Prepare the meringues and lemon curd the day before, then assemble right before serving.

For the meringues:

6 large egg whites, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 tsp cream of tartar

Pinch salt

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the lemon curd:

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

6 large egg yolks

1 cup granulated sugar

1 Tbsp freshly grated lemon zest

1/2 cup cold salted butter, cubed

2 cups whipping cream

2 cups assorted fresh berries

Fresh mint sprigs

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 200°F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Combine the egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar and salt in the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer and set over a saucepan of simmering water. Whisk constantly until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture is hot to the touch, about three minutes. Transfer to a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat until stiff, glossy peaks form, five to seven minutes. Mix in the vanilla.

3. Dollop the meringue into 12 equal portions and make a little depression with the back of a soup spoon into each one.

4. Bake the meringues for 50 to 80 minutes. Start checking them at the 50 minute mark. If they release easily from the paper, they are done. Turn off the oven, prop it open with a wooden spoon and leave until cool. It’s best to make these the day before or morning of the day you want to serve them. Store in an airtight container.

To make lemon curd:

1. Combine the lemon juice, egg yolks, sugar, and zest in a non-reactive bowl. Whisk until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a heavy saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until hot, about five to eight minutes. The mixture should begin to thicken the longer you cook it. Once thick (it should coat the back of the spoon), turn down the heat and cook for a few additional minutes, stirring continuously.

2. Remove the saucepan from the heat and strain over a bowl. Stir in the butter until it has completely melted.  Cool completely then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving. Curd can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container up to one week.

For serving:

1. Beat the whipping cream until soft peaks form. Spoon some lemon curd into each pavlova shell. Top with whipped cream and fresh berries. Garnish with sprigs of mint. Serve immediately. Makes 12 mini pavlovas.

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