What does Eastertime mean to you? Spring is a time of renewal and Easter is all about family, as we cast off a long winter and gather together. This is the time of the year when faith, food, family and friends all come together. And it’s amazing how the weather aligns with my spring baking impulses.
I love living in Kansas City and enjoying each of the four seasons here. I invite every season into my kitchen and it’s so wonderful to be able to begin to eat berries and lighter foods after the hearty foods of fall and winter.
So is this Pavlova your sweet signal of spring? This dessert is light and fresh, just like a taste of spring. The thing I love about this dessert is after you make the shell and whipped cream, you can top it with any fruit you prefer. I don’t want people to be scared off by this recipe. It may seem difficult, but it just requires following the recipe exactly. A Pavlova shell is really just a meringue that needs to bake to set it and make it crisp on the outside. It then needs a long period of cooling inside the oven, so the inside is soft, like a marshmallow.
This Pavlova is based on Ina Garten’s recipe, but I’ve changed the crust by adding some toasted pecans. The addition is an homage to a pie recipe my mom used to make especially for my dad, and it works great with this dessert too.
Tell me about your foodie formation. I grew up in Prairie Village as the fifth of seven children to Claire and Don Flaherty. I think we all took it for granted, but my mother had dinner for nine people on the table every night. She really made it appear easy. We would usually end the meal with some sweet treat, too. It was a respected and anticipated part of the meal.
I think my mom also helped me develop confidence in the kitchen. I love reading through recipes, and I’m not intimidated by long, involved cooking directions. In fact, the more involved the recipe is, the more I appreciate it as a form of relaxation. I love baking because you can just tune out the world and focus on this one task that will, hopefully, give people enjoyment when they eat it. Whenever I bake, I am always thinking of who I’m baking for, infusing it with love, if you will. Baking for me is cathartic, spiritual, always beautiful.
It seems you learned the lesson to share more than just food around the dinner table when you were growing up. Is it still a priority with your own family? Everything seems to go back to gathering around the table. Our children are busy with activities, but it’s still important to find that time to share, too.
Cooking is also an act of self-discovery and it’s exciting as I learn about what I like and what I don’t based on my experiences in the kitchen. One of the greatest things about making this Pavlova is that it must be eaten as soon as you assemble it. People gather ’round, you serve immediately, and devour with laughter and love. And there’s nothing that makes me smile more than when someone asks for another piece.
Mary G. Pepitone is a nationally syndicated freelance writer who lives in Leawood. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org to nominate a cook.
Residence: Lee’s Summit
Occupation: High school administrative assistant
Family: Married to husband, Andy, for 25 years, with two children: Vasile, 15; and Yalei, 12
Special cooking interest: Baking sweet treats
Easter Berry Pavlova
Serves 8 to 10
For the shell:
5 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup toasted, chopped pecans
For the whipped cream:
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the berry topping:
2 cups cleaned and sliced fresh strawberries
2 cups cleaned fresh blueberries
1 cup cleaned fresh raspberries
1 cup cleaned fresh blackberries
2 tablespoons sugar
To make the shell: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 18-by-12-inch jelly roll pan with parchment paper. Trace a 9-inch circle on the paper using a food-safe pen and set aside.
Pour egg whites into a clean, dry mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer’s whisk attachment on high until soft peaks form. With mixer running, gradually add salt and sugar, beating well until mixture becomes glossy and sugar has dissolved.
Using a sifter, sprinkle cornstarch over whipped egg white mixture. With a rubber spatula, gently fold vinegar, vanilla and pecans into whipped egg whites. Do not overmix.
On prepared parchment, fill in the circle with the whipped egg white mixture, making sure the edges of the unbaked meringue are slightly higher than the center.
Place pan in oven, and immediately reduce temperature to 250 degrees. Bake for 1 hour without opening the oven door. After 1 hour, turn oven off and allow the meringue to cool inside oven for at least 2 hours without opening the oven door.
To make whipped cream: In a mixing bowl, whip heavy cream with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Add sugar and vanilla to sweeten and mix until well incorporated. Place in refrigerator to chill.
To make berry topping: Combine strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries in a bowl and gently stir in sugar. Allow berries to macerate and create a natural syrup with the sugar.
To assemble: transfer baked Pavlova shell onto a serving plate and spread the top completely with sweetened whipped cream. Spoon berries carefully into the middle of the Pavlova, leaving a border of cream around the edges. Serve immediately.
Per serving, based on 8: 424 calories (55 percent from fat), 27 grams total fat (11 grams saturated), 61 milligrams cholesterol, 45 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams protein, 69 milligrams sodium, 5 grams dietary fiber