Strawberry-Rhubarb Pavlovas with Rose

Season: Spring / Summer | Active Time: 1 hour 15 minutes | Total Time: 4 hours | Difficulty: 3 (Moderate) | Gluten-Free

If there is a more satisfying textural dessert than crispy-on-the-outside, marshmallowy-on-the-inside meringues, topped with whipped cream and fruit, then I have yet to find one. When I worked at the now-closed Spring restaurant in Paris, I made mini teardrop-shaped meringues first thing every morning. The recipe we used in the restaurant produced a gorgeously glossy, dense, stable meringue that baked into airy, crispy-shelled pillows—perfect for Pavlova—so I’ve adapted it here. It takes quite a bit of sugar to achieve that desired texture, so I like to balance it out with tart rhubarb and unsweetened whipped cream. Rose water, which I add to the rhubarb and strawberry mixture, is divisive. Used in too large amounts, it makes anything taste like potpourri, so the trick is using just a bit to add a floral note. If you hate the taste and smell of rose, of course feel free to leave it out.

Makes 8 individual pavlovas

Special Equipment: Stand mixer ①


1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, plus a lemon wedge for rubbing the bowl

6 large egg whites (7.4 oz / 210g)

Pinch of kosher salt

1 cup granulated sugar (7 oz / 200g)

1¾ cups powdered sugar (7 oz / 200g)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


¾ cup granulated sugar (5.3 oz / 150g)

¼ cup dry white wine (2 oz / 57g)

Pinch of kosher salt

½ lemon

½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise

1 pound (454g) rhubarb, thick stalks halved lengthwise, cut crosswise into 1½-inch pieces

1 pound (454g) strawberries, hulled, halved if small, sliced lengthwise if large

½ teaspoon rose water

2 cups heavy cream (16 oz / 448g)

Preheat the oven and prepare the pans: Arrange two oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 200°F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Make the meringue: Rub the inside of a stand mixer bowl with the cut part of a lemon wedge to remove any grease or residue (this helps the egg whites whip up more easily).

Place the egg whites and salt in the bowl and beat with the whisk attachment on low speed just to break up the whites. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture is foamy and white. With the mixer running, very gradually add the granulated sugar, only allowing a thin, steady stream of granules to cascade into the bowl. Incorporating all the sugar will take 2 to 3 minutes, so be patient, as you want the egg whites to whip slowly. ③

Once you’ve incorporated all the granulated sugar, you should have a dense and glossy meringue. Increase the speed to high and continue to beat until the meringue forms a stiff peak off the end of the whisk, about another minute. Stop the mixer and add about one-third of the powdered sugar. Beat on low to incorporate, then stop the mixer and repeat two more times with the remaining powdered sugar until it’s completely incorporated into the meringue. The addition of the powdered sugar will cause the meringue to lose a bit of volume, so increase the mixer to high after adding all of it and beat once more until you have very stiff, glossy peaks, about 1 minute. Beat in the vanilla and 1 teaspoon lemon juice, then remove the bowl from the mixer.

Form the meringues: ④ Use a large spoon to make 8 equal dollops of meringue spaced out evenly across the two prepared baking sheets, 4 dollops per sheet. Use the back of a smaller spoon to create deep depressions about 3 inches wide in the center of each dollop. Don’t worry about manipulating the shape of the dollops too much; they look best when left in their natural form, plus the meringue will relax and puff slightly in the oven.

Bake the meringues: Bake the meringues on the upper and lower racks until they are dry to the touch, very crisp on the outside, and soft and marshmallowy on the inside, about 2 hours, switching racks and rotating the pans front to back after 1 hour. Test their doneness by peeling a meringue off the parchment paper—it should release cleanly from the parchment (if it sticks, keep baking). Turn off the oven, prop the door open with a wooden spoon, and allow the meringues to cool in the oven for at least 1 hour and up to 2. ⑤

Poach the rhubarb: In a large saucepan or medium Dutch oven, combine the granulated sugar, wine, salt, and 1 cup water (8 oz / 227g). Squeeze the lemon half into the saucepan and toss in the rind as well. Scrape in the vanilla seeds and add the pod. Set the saucepan over medium heat and stir occasionally until the sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes. Bring the poaching liquid to a very gentle simmer, then add the rhubarb. Continue to cook over medium heat, swirling the pan gently (don’t disturb the rhubarb too much—you want it to keep its shape), just until you see the mixture start to bubble around the edges of the pan. ⑥ Remove from the heat and set the pan aside to cool completely; the rhubarb will slowly poach from the residual heat.

Macerate the strawberries: In a large bowl, combine the strawberries and rose water. Spoon 3 tablespoons of the warm rhubarb poaching liquid into the bowl with the strawberries, toss gently, and set aside while the rhubarb finishes cooling.

Whip the cream: In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the heavy cream, starting on medium-low and increasing the speed gradually to high as the cream thickens, until you have soft peaks. (Alternatively, beat the heavy cream in a large bowl with a hand mixer.)

Assemble the Pavlovas: Arrange the meringues on individual plates and top them with the whipped cream and the strawberry mixture (plus juices), dividing evenly. Using a slotted spoon, top the Pavlovas with the poached rhubarb. Serve immediately.

The meringues, wrapped very well and stored at room temperature, will keep up to 2 days. The rhubarb, stored airtight in the poaching liquid in the refrigerator, will keep up to 4 days. Assemble the Pavlovas right before serving.

① Don’t attempt to make the meringue with a hand mixer. A hand mixer doesn’t have the power required to sufficiently beat a stable meringue, plus you need a free hand to steadily stream in the sugar.

② Use plain store-bought meringue cookies as a shortcut. Break them into large pieces and layer with the cream and fruit mixtures in glasses for a spin on the classic British dessert Eton Mess.

③ You want to add the sugar very slowly to the egg whites so it dissolves completely. This produces a more stable and stiffer meringue that is resistant to weeping. (Weeping is when the meringue leaches out a clear, sticky syrup during baking, and is usually a result of undissolved sugar.)

④ You can make a single large-format Pavlova rather than individuals. Cover the better part of a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet with the meringue, spreading it into a rough 13 x 9-inch rectangle and making several divots all across the surface so there are lots of peaks and valleys to hold the cream and fruit. Bake in the center of the oven for 2½ to 3 hours. Assemble on the baking sheet and cut into pieces to serve.

⑤ Wrap the meringues tightly in plastic if you’re making them ahead, especially if it’s humid. The sugar in the meringue will pull moisture from the air and cause them to soften, so creating an airtight and moisture-tight seal is key.

⑥ Don’t allow the poaching liquid to boil or you will risk overcooking the rhubarb and turning it to mush.

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