A dessert named for a dancer
My father loves to claim that he’s on a quest to find a dessert he doesn’t like. After trying a low-sugar strawberry mini pavlova, he reported that, sadly, his quest was not over.
Pavlova is basically a meringue cake. It was developed about a century ago, likely in either Australia or New Zealand–both countries claim ownership of the dessert. Whatever the case, it was named for the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, who toured both countries during the 1920s. From there, it quickly spread throughout the Commonwealth. The Irish came up with the idea of putting strawberries on it.
Pavlova without a ton of sugar
For our version, the meringue is quite low in sugar–less than a teaspoon in each mini pavlova. I use more than that in my coffee each morning! The egg whites make this recipe a success, not the sugar. Kate always thought she hated meringue until we developed this version. It isn’t cloyingly sweet like many meringue recipes, instead becoming a light and airy way to get fruit in your mouth.
We haven’t actually tried making this as one full-size pavlova, but if you follow the directions for one we’re pretty sure it will turn out just fine.
It’s important to not let these stick to your baking sheet–you wouldn’t want them to crumble apart if you try to pry them off with a spatula. A silicone baking mat is ideal, and even has guide circles so you can make each pavlova the same size. If you don’t have one, parchment paper or even wax paper will work. Just use a biscuit cutter or even the bottom of a coffee cup to mark out the sizes and make them consistent.
Your weather affects the texture of meringue more than most recipes. High humidity, in particular, makes the pavlovas chewier than dry weather. We recommend baking these on drier days for a crispier texture.Print
This is a low-sugar strawberry pavlova recipe, but there’s lots of flavor and just enough sweetness to win you over! (and nothing artificial)
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup caster sugar – or granulated, but if the granules are too big you might need to run it through the food processor
3/8 teaspoon cream of tartar (1/4 tsp plus 1/8 tsp)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup Greek yogurt
2 cups sliced strawberries
3 tablespoons honey
- Preheat the oven to 110°C/230°F.
Place silicone baking mats with macaron circles on two baking sheets. If you don’t have those, you can use a sheet of parchment paper instead. Using a biscuit cutter or a circular cookie cutter (or whatever you have about the same size) and a pencil, draw 9 circles on each piece of parchment paper. Then, flip the paper over so the circles are on the bottom so you aren’t eating graphite when they’re done.
- Place the egg whites and salt in a large mixing bowl. Using an electric hand mixer, beat the egg whites high speed until firm, about 1 minute. With the mixer still on high, slowly add the sugar and cream of tartar and beat until it makes firm, shiny peaks, another 2 minutes or so. Now you have meringue.
- Drizzle the vanilla over the meringue and gently fold with a rubber spatula.
- Using a spoon, drop some in the middle of each circle you’ve made, then spread to the edge of the circles. With the back of the spoon, press down in the middle to make a shallow dimple.
- Place the meringues in the oven and bake for 1 1/4 hours, then lower heat to 80°C/170°F and bake for another 1/2 hour. Turn off the oven and, without opening the door, allow the meringue to cool for another 30 minutes. It should be crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.
- For the topping, whisk the yogurt and keep refrigerated until ready to use.
- Mix 2 tablespoons of honey in with the strawberries (unless they are fresh, in-season and already sweet – then skip this step) and let sit in the refrigerator while the meringues are cooking.
- When ready to serve, top the meringues with a dollop of yogurt and then spoon the strawberries over the top. for sweet teeth, drizzle with extra honey at the table.
NOTES : Tips for better meringue:
- Use older egg whites. Fresh eggs will make it harder to get a good, stiff meringue.
- High humidity will ruin meringue; making it spongy even runny, so if it’s a muggy or rainy day, satisfy your sweet tooth elsewhere.
- Don’t peek in the oven! Opening the oven before the meringue has cooled could make it flat as a pancake – or flatter. If you MUST look, turn on your oven light and keep your oven window clean.
- Don’t make your pavlovas too far in advance – they get chewy and lose that crispy exterior or in dryer climates, dry out too much and shatter when you try to take a bite.
- Don’t add toppings before you serve it. That crispy exterior will sag with the moisture of the cream and/or fruit.
Keywords: dessert, meringue, berries, summer, low-sugar