I have always been a big fan of meringue, whether it’s a creamy Italian meringue atop a pie
or a cake, a crunchy meringue cookie, or—perhaps the most stunning showstopper dessert ever—a pavlova. Gently baked until crisp on the outside and fluffy-moist on the inside, a pavlova offers lovely textures, not to mention that sweet, marshmallow-like flavor. I often think of it for spring or summer occasions, opting to top it with berries and cream. But pavlova also lends itself beautifully to fall fruit and warm spices, making it a fantastic (and surprising) addition to the holiday table.In this recipe, I add ground cardamom to the egg whites for deep fragrance and warm, sweet notes. I love this spice—as opposed to more traditional fall spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, or allspice—because it’s brighter and more aromatic. It simply makes this pavlova feel more special. Grapes, pears, and pomegranate arils are the fall fruit trifecta for the topping, each offering its own shade of muted burgundy that feels just right for this time of year.If you’ve never made a pavlova, you’ll be surprised by how easy it is. It doesn’t require any special culinary skill, but it does require time—about 4 1/2 hours in the oven, minimum. You can get a little bit of a head start if you need: Bake the pavlova earlier in the day, and hold it at room temperature for a few hours in an airtight environment (wrap it in plastic wrap or, if you have a container large enough, in an airtight container). Make the whipped cream topping earlier in the day, too, and hold it in the fridge. And roast the fruit a few hours ahead and keep it at room temperature. Then assemble your gorgeous creation just before serving.One quick tip as you’re working with the egg whites. This was something I learned from a former colleague at Cooking Light,
Deb Wise (aka the Dessert Goddess). She was beating egg whites one day in the test kitchen, and I commented that they were amazingly voluminous. She revealed why: You must be patient and take your time when beating the egg whites. Start at medium speed, work your way up to medium-high, and finally end at high. If you go in right away at high speed, your egg whites will not reach their full volume potential. So if you’re like me, tamp down your desire to speed things up—it won’t serve you well in the long run.