I think a pavlova is the perfect holiday dessert. It is beautiful enough to be a centerpiece on your table, so light that it can follow a big holiday meal and its flavors can change with your every whim.
This Boozy Cherry Pavlova was inspired by the cherry cordial filling in the chocolates that are a holiday stocking tradition in my house. I cooked the cherries in champagne, cherry juice, and just a touch of sugar until they created a boozy syrup. This can be done with just juice for a virgin cherry variation.
This ethereal crown of meringue, filled with cream and berries is a Pavlova. The name comes from the ballerina, Anna Pavlova, who was performing around the world in 1926 and made a stop in the land down under. From there the details get a little fuzzy and no one is quite sure if it was a pastry chef from Australia or New Zealand who first made this dessert for her. It causes a heated debate amongst them if you declare it one way or the other, so I am staying vague on the origin. This is one of my favorite desserts, because I am a huge fan of meringue in just about any form. I love how it looks, how it tastes and the texture it lends. Pavlova, unlike other meringues, is made with vinegar and cornstarch, so the end result is crisp on the outside, but still has some tooth (chew) on the inside. Traditionally it is served with fruit, such as berries and passionfruit (that’s what is dripping off the edge) and whipped cream. I also added lemon curd, but there are no rules and you can fill this with whatever moves you.
The dacquoise is a delicate cake layer that is sadly under used by home bakers. It is a cousin to a pavlova, but has the richness of nuts. It is made of French meringue that has nuts (almond meal and coarsely crushed roasted almonds) folded into it and baked in a thin layer. The dacquoise is crisp and used to add a sweet, nuttiness to your cake layers or can be used all on its own. I’ve piled the layers high with whipped cream, lemon curd, mixed berries and topped the whole thing with shards of white chocolate painted with edible luster dust. Without the chocolate it is really a very simple dessert, but if you are going to a party it’s nice to fancy it up a bit.
This lemon brown sugar meringue tart is the cousin of the Lemon Meringue Pie, an all American classic. The lemon is intense, smooth and bracing, which is the perfect contrast to the pillowy brown sugar meringue that floats on top. They sit on an almond pastry crust that is tender and not overly sweet. The filling is simply made with just lemon juice, egg yolks and sugar, no need for cornstarch or sweetened condensed milk. The brown sugar in the meringue gives it more personality and a deeper flavor, which goes so well with the sourness of the lemons.