This holiday poached-pear dessert is a touch tart and not too sweet. The pear absorbs all of the flavors beautifully, and the dollop of whipped cream is dainty and decadent. (Bonus: It can be made in advance of your guests’ arrival.)
To make the mini pavlovas:
1. Preheat the oven to 275°F with a rack placed in the lower third of the oven.
2. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper. Use a pencil to draw 4 5-inch-diameter circles on the parchment. Flip the parchment over.
3. Clean out your mixing bowl and beaters carefully with some vinegar. Any residual oil left in the bowl can prevent the meringue from properly coming together.
4. Mix the vanilla and white vinegar in a bowl.
5. Mix the sugar and cornstarch in a separate bowl.
6. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar in a large bowl until soft peaks form. Begin at a low speed and gradually increase the speed to medium.
7. Once soft peaks have formed, add the sugar-cornstarch mixture 1 tablespoon at a time, beating constantly until thick and glossy. While doing this, gradually increase the speed so that the mixer is at the maximum speed once all of the sugar-cornstarch mixture has been added.
8. Continue whipping until the mixture holds stiff peaks.
9. Add the vanilla and vinegar and beat for a few more seconds to fold them into the mixture.
10. Using a large spoon, divide the meringue mixture among the 4 circles on the baking sheet.
11. Gently make smooth swirl patterns with sweeping strokes. Make sure the tops of the pavlovas are mostly flat and make a slight indent in the middle, where the whipped cream and pear will sit. Work quickly and make sure to be gentle so as not to remove any of the air that was painstakingly whipped into the meringue.
12. Put the meringue in the oven and immediately turn down the heat to 250°F. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes. The pavlovas are done when they are dry to the touch, are very slightly browned, and sound hollow when tapped. Small cracks may form.
13. Turn the oven off but leave the pavlova inside with the oven door ajar. Let sit until the pavlova is completely cooled, or overnight.
To make the poached pears:
1. Flatten the bottoms of the pears by shaving a bit off. This will help them sit on the pavlovas. Use a melon baller to scoop out the seeds from the bottom of the pear.
2. In a medium saucepan, combine all of the ingredients except for the pears. Cook over medium heat, making sure to stir, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture comes to a boil.
3. Add the pears. The liquid should fully cover the pears. Reduce the heat and simmer until the pears are tender, about 20 minutes.
4. Remove the pears from the pot and continue to boil the liquid in the pan. Cook until reduced by half, about 25 to 30 minutes.
To make the whipped cream:
1. Make sure to start with cold cream. Using an electric mixer or by hand, beat the heavy cream in a medium-size bowl until soft peaks form.
2. Gradually add in the sugar and vanilla; continue to beat until you reach stiff peaks. Do not overbeat.
1. Carefully place the pavlovas onto plates. Spoon the whipped cream into the slot that was made before baking. Place a pear on top and drizzle with the poaching liquid. You can also choose to cut the pear in half for serving.
Recipe developed by Athena Calderone and Jenny Huang.
Originally featured in 5 Tips for Holiday Entertaining at Home