Springtime calls for light and airy desserts -- a pavlova with lemon curd and mascarpone has it all: sweet yet tart; rich without being too heavy; crunchy but chewy, too. Garnished with blueberries, raspberries, whipped cream and candied violets it is a beautiful treat for family and guests alike.
I often bake my pavlova the night before, along with making my lemon curd -- then the dessert comes together lightning fast when ready to serve.
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees and ready a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper to cover. I don't find it's necessary to draw a circle -- but it can be helpful to trace one on the paper, approximately 12-14" in diameter.
For the Pavlova:
4 large egg whites at room temperature
1/8 t. salt
1 c. granulated sugar
2 t. sifted cornstarch
1 t. distilled white vinegar
1 t. vanilla
With whisk attachment to standing mixer beat egg whites and salt on medium speed for two minutes; increase to high and slowly add sugar in fine stream until shiny peaks form (this will take about 3 more minutes). Remove any meringue from whisk attachment by tapping on edge of mixing bowl; then sprinkle over meringue mixture cornstarch, vinegar and vanilla and carefully blend, using a spatula to incorporate.
Mound the meringue onto the center of the parchment paper and with an offset spatula gently ease out to form large circle, as desired. NB: I like to gently indent a 8-inch center section, to allow a nice "nest" when baked for my filling. Place baking sheet in oven for about 60 minutes until meringue is dry and firm (though center will remain a bit softer). Let the meringue cool on baking sheet, resting on rack for 30 minutes, then carefully slide meringue off and away from parchment paper on baking sheet to cooling rack.
While the pavlova is baking, there is time to do the lemon curd filling:
1/2 c. fresh lemon juice
2 t. lemon zest
3/4 c. granulated sugar
2 large eggs, well beaten
1/2 c. unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
12 oz. mascarpone cheese
1 c. heavy whipping cream
1 T. confectioner's sugar
1 t. vanilla
1 pint each organic blueberries and raspberries, washed and patted dry
candied violets (optional)
Whisk first four ingredients in top portion of double boiler, then place pan over simmering water in pan's base. Immediately add butter by tablespoonfuls and whisk occasionally until curd has become thick (this takes nearly 20 minutes). Strain through sieve (to catch any bit of scrambled egg) into glass bowl; cool to room temperature and then refrigerate curd, covered with plastic wrap placed directly on top of curd.
With standing mixer (or hand-held mixer) incorporate chilled lemon curd with mascarpone; set aside. Whip heavy cream with powdered sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form.
Place pavlova on serving platter; fill center with lemon curd mixture and arrange berries on top; mound whipped cream on center top and if desired, add garnish of candied violets (or several fresh edible flowers). Refrigerate until ready to serve; best eaten within first day or so.