It was autumn a few years ago when Lisa and Gareth Hedges and their two children moved to America from New Zealand. Sure, they had heard about Thanksgiving through movies and books, but they hadn't experienced it firsthand until they were invited by new American friends to celebrate together.
Now in its fifth year, the gathering has become a meaningful tradition for both families. Lisa recalled the first year when, thankful to be included around the table, she offered to contribute something to the menu. Lisa humbly admitted she didn't know how to make the green bean and mushroom soup vegetable dish, or how to bake a pecan, apple or pumpkin pie. "But I could make a dessert from New Zealand," she said to the hosts. "It's called Pavlova."
"Pavlova is a favorite for special events and holidays," she said. "It begins as a big blob of meringue — crunchy on the outside, and soft and smooth in the middle. When slathered with whipped cream and garnished with berries and fruit such as kiwi slices or passion fruit, it's transformed into something beautiful and delicious."
When Lisa shared her Pavlova with me, I immediately understood why it's a hit at their Thanksgiving dessert table. It would be a great addition to festivities any time of year.
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
Pinch of salt
1¼ cups sugar, preferably super- fine or ultrafine pure cane baker's sugar, such as C&H Baker's Sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups whipped cream
Kiwi slices and fresh berries (such as strawberries and raspberries) or other fruit of your choice
To prepare oven and baking sheet: Heat oven to 300 F. Draw a 9-inch circle on a sheet of parchment paper, cut to fit a sheet pan. Turn paper over and lay on pan.
To make meringue: Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites and salt on high speed until firm, about 1 minute. With mixer still on high, slowly add sugar and beat until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 4 minutes.
With a spatula, gently fold in cornstarch, vinegar and vanilla to combine. Mound the meringue in the center of the 9-inch circle. Using a spatula, spread out evenly to form a disk. Bake 1 hour. Turn off oven and let meringue cool completely in the oven before removing, about one hour. To serve, set meringue on a plate, and top with whipped cream and desired berries and fruit. Makes 6 servings.