I’ve heard that some people have foreshadowing dreams, premonitions of things that haven’t happened yet but end up happening more or less like their dream, in real life. I think our brains our amazing and are probably smarter than we realize, but I’ve never had one of these dreams. I have however, dreamt of foods I have never tasted and become obsessed over a few days, looking up recipes to make what I had in mind happen. I guess that’s kind of the same thing, right?
This past winter while working on my thesis, I saw some beautiful Meyer lemons at the grocery store. Still attached to their leaves and with a sweet perfume of someplace warm, I picked up a few and promised myself that I would look up recipes at home. I didn’t end up giving them much thought and they were languishing in my fridge’s fruit cupboard until one evening/very early morning, I was typing away at my thesis when I dreamed up a clafoutis with the lemons. It’d be crispy around the edges, soft and creamy in the middle, and layered with Meyer lemon sliced whisper-thin, candied and tangy. Now before this point I think I had clafoutis perhaps once, and it was fairly disappointing. A few days later on a grey January morning, I took one of my first styled photos and made this little darling:
But I’m getting carried away, because this post is not about the clafoutis. It is about pavlova! This I had never had before because I always thought, “why have a meringue when you can have cake?” Like the clafoutis, the idea of the pavlova crept up on me late at night when I was working on job applications (oh, the joys of being a recent grad). It would be with the whipped cream I was making all spring, specked with orange zest and with just a hint of rosewater. A week later, we were having company over for dinner and it was a great opportunity to try it out. It was one of those first really warm evenings in May, and after a dinner of homemade pizza and a couple bottles of wine, we each dug into our little meringues. Crispy on the outside and melty soft on the inside, it was topped with that spring whipped cream and orange segments. I added some dried rose petals and chopped pistachios, and a drizzle of this very floral honey M had brought back from his trip to Turkey. It being my first pavlova, I can’t say how it stacks up with how it’s supposed to be. But that taste of flowers and citrus was perfect for the balmy evening, a hint of summer around the corner.
Rosewater and pistachio pavlova
Serving size: 6 individual pavlovas
- 4 egg whites
- 1 c. granulated sugar
- ½ tbsp. cornstarch
- 1 tsp. rosewater
- 1 tsp. white vinegar
- ¼ – ½ c. pistachios (depending on how nutty you want your pavlovas), plus another ¼ c. for the topping
- 1 c. whipping/35% heavy cream
- 1 tsp. rosewater
- confectioner’s sugar
- zest from 1 orange
- 1 tbsp. granulated sugar
- orange segments (see Notes for alternatives)
- dried rosebuds (usually for tea)
Finely chop the ¼–½ cup pistachios and set aside, to be added to the meringues. Roughly chop the remaining ¼ cup and set aside, to be used as garnish.
Take a few rosebuds and crush the outer leaves to get tiny pieces of pink rose petal. I try to avoid the inner part of the bud since it is brown and less appealing. A single rosebud goes a long way here; depending on the size of your dried rosebuds, you will likely not need more than 3 or 4.
Preheat the oven to 275°F and set your racks in the bottom third of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and use a pencil to roughly trace out 6 circles that are 3″ each in diameter. The Kitchn has a great tip for this – find a container or glass roughly 3″ in size and trace around it on the parchment paper. This is to ensure uniform sizes of pavlovas for everyone, but you could also just eyeball this.
Whisk together the sugar and cornstarch to evenly distribute the cornstarch throughout. Carefully separate your egg whites so as not to get any yolk. I like to err on the side of caution and leave that tiny bit of white that clings to the yolk if necessary.
In a large bowl, add the egg whites and mix at low speed at first, gradually increasing to medium until you have soft peaks. Add the sugar/cornstarch mix a few tablespoons at a time, blending it in before adding the next few tablespoons. Gradually increase the speed to maximum as you add the sugar, and whip until you have stiff peaks. Drizzle in the rosewater and vinegar. Sprinkle in the pistachios and gently fold until fully incorporated.
Use a large spoon or spatula to spread a portion of the meringue into each of the outlined circles.
Put the meringues into the oven and immediately turn down the temperature to 250°F. Bake for 50-60 minutes, checking on them around the 50 minute mark. You will know they are done when the outside is dry and slightly golden and the bottom is firm. If you tap it, it should sound hollow. Remove and let fully cool on a wire rack.
Meanwhile, whip the heavy cream and add confectioner’s sugar, 1 teaspoon at a time until it is almost sweet enough (I used about 2 teaspoons). In a small bowl, mix the orange zest with the granulated sugar so that the zest is not clumpy but distributed in the sugar. Fold this zest and sugar combination, along with the rosewater, into the cream.
Just before serving, top each individual pavlova with a generous dollop of whipped cream, and top with orange segments, the roughly chopped pistachios, rose petals, and a drizzle of your favourite honey.
If you don’t have a hand or stand mixer, fear not! Just start with a very clean metal bowl and whisk, and put on your jams and be patient while whisking those egg whites. It’ll take you 10 minutes tops, plus you’ll earn some serious kitchen cred.
A clean bowl and whisk is absolutely necessary here, as a the littlest amount of residual grease or fat will prevent the egg whites from becoming stiff.
Finally, the orange segments could easily be replaced with blood orange, tangerine, or grapefruit. Use their zest instead of orange zest in the cream.