Pastries come in many forms, from guava–cream cheese pastelitos to glazed lemon-ginger scones. They’re limited only by what you can do with typical baking ingredients, such as flour, water, milk and butter. These satisfying treats can shape-shift to fit whatever course you need; opt for fruit-filled Danish for breakfast, and then serve your dinner guests a dessert platter of chocolate-covered éclairs that night. Food & Wine's guide has plenty of pastry recipes to get you through every occasion.

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Spiced Pavlova with Roasted Pears and Grapes

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.

Caramelized Pears with Chai–Maple Syrup Dumplings

When I met my husband, Ross, he was a college student living on his own and he knew how to cook about three things. His diet was driven by survival, necessity, and a ravenous late-teen appetite that required a constantly full plate on a small budget. His staple dinner was spaghetti bolognese made with mince (ground meat) purchased at the bulk price and transformed into a huge pot of meat sauce that would last him through the week. His desserts were comprised mainly of salt-of-the-earth sweet recipes inherited from his mother’s small country kitchen. The day he presented an oddly monikered dish to me called Heavenly Hash was, in all honesty, not a high point in our courtship. Hidden within a mound of sour cream, there were tinned mandarins, maraschino cherries, and marshmallows. It was unlike any dessert I’d ever tasted, and I didn’t care to taste it ever again. However, his reputation in the kitchen was completely redeemed by the next dessert he cooked for me: golden syrup dumplings. Instantly, I was in love.Golden syrup dumplings are an Australian (and by historical default, British) dessert classic. Fluffy, cloud-like dumplings are bathed in a rich golden syrup sauce, made with basic, budget-friendly pantry staples. The key ingredient is, of course, golden syrup. Not commonly found in countries outside of Australia or the United Kingdom, this treacle-like amber syrup is the cornerstone of several feted Antipodean desserts including caramel slice and Anzac biscuits. It’s thicker and sweeter than maple syrup, but in everyday cooking, I find maple to be a delicious sub.This recipe is a riff on my mother-in-law’s golden syrup dumplings, elevated with spices and fruit. While still using very basic pantry ingredients, I’ve added caramelized pears to the equation, along with warming chai spices to add depth and intrigue. While some like to shape their dough into balls (be warned, it’s normal for the dough to be very wet, so it’s quite hard to handle), I love the freeform dumplings achieved by simply dropping spoonfuls of the dough directly into the hot syrup. The dumplings puff up, while the bottoms becomes lusciously sodden with the sugary syrup (personally, my favorite part of the dumpling). Although this dish is already sweet, I always serve it with vanilla ice cream (use whipped cream, if you prefer). This recipe is also very adaptable; you can make it plain, without pears or chai (simply omit the pears and use water in place of the chai), and it will still capture your heart—just like my husband’s dumplings did, all those years ago.

Pavlovas with Roasted Rhubarb and Rosé Syrup

Sometime in the ’80s my mom brought our first microwave home and set it up on a large table at the back of our gold-wallpapered kitchen. My brothers and I crowded before it on our knees, as if around an altar, to properly worship it. The first thing my mom cooked was a teacup full of water—it simmered; she was sold. For our part, we kids quickly moved on to blowing things up. Hot dogs burst open impressively, their fissures spitting lava-hot juice into the air.Marshmallows were positively cinematic: At 10 seconds a jumbo marshmallow doubled, then quickly tripled, and then quadrupled its original volume. It stayed there at the overblown-bubble stage for a few suspenseful moments before suddenly exploding into a pale wrinkly pancake that progressed from the color of sand to coffee to burnt toast right before our very eyes. It was the lifespan of a marshmallow, birth to death, in one minute—and we were transfixed.I guess the wonder never left me, because when I make a pavlova, I feel the same thrill as I did when I was blowing up marshmallows. A pavlova is just an egg white meringue, solidified with a little cornstarch, and spiked with a tempering shot of vinegar, baked into a soft bed of sugar. Being a grown-up, I approach it in a much more controlled and scientific way, and stop sensibly at the point where the foam stabilizes just enough to hold, well before the white cloud can get sunburnt. My platonic-ideal pavlova is the size of a Barbie hot tub, still gooey at the center, and filled with tart cooked fruit, preferably rhubarb. I lay out the rhubarb in long bias-cut spears and bake them uncovered in a reduced wine syrup, ever so gently, until the rhubarb constricts in its own sugary juices—softening but never losing its shape or its spine-tingling tartness.To be nostalgically accurate, the only wine I knew around the time the microwave arrived came from the box that sat directly next to it, which was called Franzia White Zinfandel. It shot into my mom’s glass in a froth of pink bubbles as innocently as soda pop. For this syrup I rely on rosé—more classy and current, it reduces perfectly with the rhubarb juices into a lurid, floral pink syrup. The color of teen girl power trapped inside a Miami Vice sunset, its flavor is tame but latent.When I feel down, or dulled, or even when things feel just a little too matchy-matchy, I heed the old call to worship at the altar of white sugar. I go and whip up a pavlova just to prove to myself that the joy of that first overblown marshmallow, the seed of what I knew then, is still there.

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February Pastry Calendar

Chefs all over the world have taken to Instagram to challenge each other to the #7daypastrychallenge: to Instagram a meaningful/impressive/beautiful pastry each day for seven days. With pastries blowing up our feeds, it’s no surprise we’ve been inspired to bake. Here, one indulgent pastry for each day of February so you can hop on the #7daypastrychallenge train. Social media has never been more delicious.

Puff Au Chocolat

To keep the buttery puff pastry base here flat and easy to eat, Lynch bakes it between two cookie sheets until golden and crisp. She then tops the pastry with a gooey dark- and milk-chocolate ganache, fresh fruit and toasted hazelnuts. Slideshow: More Pie and Tart RecipesRecipe from Food & Wine Best New Chefs All-Star Cookbook