Delicate and refreshing, pavlova is an ideal sweet summer treat. This elegant dessert made of a delicate meringue crust topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit was named after Anna Pavlova, the famous Russian ballet dancer. Carefully beating eggs for a meringue shell and whipping cream until it's fluffy and thick are tasks that sometimes frustrate even the most practised cooks. Strategies such as using egg whites that are at room temperature before whisking them and chilling your whipping cream, whisk and bowl can help you create a perfect pavlova.
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Trace a 9-inch circle onto non-stick baking paper with a pencil.
Line your baking tray with the non-stick baking paper with the pencil circle facing down. Put aside.
Whisk 1/8 tsp cream of tartar and 1/8 tsp salt into 1/2 cup room-temperature egg whites in a large bowl until foamy.
Add 1 cup granulated sugar, 2 tsp cornstarch, 1/2 tsp vinegar and 1 tsp vanilla extract and continue whipping the egg white mixture until it is stiff, smooth and slightly shiny in appearance. This should take between 8 and 10 minutes.
Spoon the egg white mixture carefully into the circle you drew on the baking paper and use the back of a spoon to smooth the top and sides. Use a spoon or a rubber spatula to form an indentation in the middle of the egg white mixture. Make sure the indentation will be large enough to accommodate the whipped cream and fruit topping after the meringue crust is baked.
Bake at 350F for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 300F and bake until the meringue is lightly browned, about 45 minutes. The meringue should be crisp and dry on the outside.
Cool for another 30 minutes in the oven with the oven door slightly ajar, until the meringue reaches room temperature. Cooling the meringue gradually helps to prevent it from cracking and breaking.
Wash, peel and thinly slice 1/2 cup kiwi. Put aside.
Wash and cut the stems off strawberries. Thinly slice 1/2 cup strawberries. Put aside.
Place a metal or glass mixing bowl and a metal whisk in the freezer for 10 minutes.
Pour the whipping cream into the chilled bowl and add 2 tbsp packed light brown sugar.
Whip the cream and brown sugar together with the whisk until stiff peaks form.
Spoon the whipped cream onto the meringue crust. Smooth it out using a rubber spatula.
Arrange the strawberry and kiwi slices on top of the whipped cream. You can alternate the slices of fruit, or put one type of fruit on the outer edge of the whipped cream and the other fruit slices in the centre.
Slice with a serrated knife and serve immediately.
Make sure your egg whites are at room temperature before you start to beat them, because they will foam and stiffen more easily. For best results, use a metal whisk when making the meringue; this allows the incorporation of more air into the egg whites during whipping. The cream will whip more easily if you keep your cream, the whisk and the bowl you will use for whipping it chilled. Make a prettier pavlova meringue crust by spooning your meringue into a pastry bag with a star tip and piping it over the circle on the baking paper in individual star designs. Get creative with different fruits. Try raspberries and blueberries instead of strawberries and kiwis, or experiment with fruit purées and jellies. Experiment with flavoured whipped creams; add vanilla or other extracts for an extra burst of flavour. Switch up your pavlova with a different meringue base. Mix and match flavoured meringues with whipped creams and fillings to find your favourite pavlova variation.
Don't use a plastic bowl or whisk. Fat clings to plastic and because fat prevents eggs from foaming, it's best to use glass or metal bowls to make meringue.