It’s March Break in my neck of the woods, which means everyone and their dog is on vacation. Basically, all my social feeds are flooded with pictures of palm trees, tranquil seaside sunbeds, and carefree shots of delectable beach snacks and ice-cold bottles of beer. None of these photos belong to me. I’m still in frosty Toronto thanking my lucky stars that spring snow rarely accumulates. Yes, that’s what I’m currently reveling in. This is why Canadian dig out their cut-off jean shorts the moment the temperature hits 10°C. But just because I’m not sunning myself on a beach somewhere doesn’t mean I can’t manifest the tropics in my own backyard or kitchen, in this case. Today’s Citrus Punch Pavlova is a sunkissed sugary delight. Filled with a bright and sunny Five-Alive-inspired curd, this dessert will instantly transport you to sunny shores.
Desserts are rare on this website and I know they generally perform the best, in spite of so many of you requesting more “healthy” recipes. I totally get this less-than-rational appeal, by the way. I too am a human being built on little more than contradictions. And I think I know why your heads ask for meal prep but your itchy fingers click on sugary showstoppers. Fantasy. Sweet sugary fantasy. It’s akin to saving photos of wedding gowns long after you say “I do”. It’s drooling over mid-century modern mansions you’ll never be able to afford. And it’s spending hours online shopping without ever checking out. Fantasy, design lust, a momentary escape. All good and healthy instincts as far as I’m concerned.
While your frontal lobe may be keen to keep you on the rails with a salad or two, the rest of you would much rather curate a visual wishlist of all the desserts you’d like to make, eat, and/or impress your friends with. And today’s Citrus Punch Pavlova is exactly that kind of dessert. A sugar-spun fantasy. But here’s the twist, this isn’t difficult to make. So if you’re in the mood to throw caution to the wind calorie-wise, this is well within reach. A fantasy turned into a reality. If only I could say the same for the mansion.
I don’t think I’m off-base when I say meringue is one of those things you either love or hate. As a person who doesn’t tend to love overly sweet things, meringue and I have a complicated relationship. My feelings about meringue are entirely dependent on its context. Lemon meringue pie? Yes, please! But meringue cookies solo? I’m liable to only have one or two before tapping out. I need tart with my sweet, so this Citrus Punch Pavlova works for me. The tart curd is the perfect foil for the crisp, marshmallowy pavlova base.
Now let’s talk about the base, and no, you can’t make a low-sugar meringue. Meringue is pretty much sugar and egg whites. Sugar is crucial to its structural integrity. But you can balance a little with a pinch or two of salt. I used Cloudy Kitchen’s excellent pavlova recipe almost to the letter because why improve upon perfection? What I like most about this recipe is the inclusion of both vanilla extract and lemon juice. They really give the meringue personality without being overbearing. The shell doesn’t taste overtly of either lemon or vanilla, it just tastes balanced.
Meringue gets a bad rap for being temperamental. And I suppose it deserves this reputation. Making meringue in high humidity is certainly a white-knuckle experience. But if the weather is cooperative and you have a solid high-speed mixer, it comes together without much of a fuss. It just takes a long time in the oven. You have to bake the shell for a solid 2 hours and then, without opening the oven door even just to peak, you have to turn off the oven and leave the pavlova in there for another 2 hours. So yeah, there isn’t a lot of active work required but this isn’t a speedy dessert either.
Once your pavlova is complete, you can either fill it and serve it or you can store it in an airtight container at room temperature. It will sog out if you store it in the fridge. This is a hard-learned lesson. But let’s talk about the filling. I went with a curd that features five different citrus fruits as a nod to one of my favorite childhood drinks – Five Alive. I did a little recasting, however by swapping the tangerine juice for Meyer lemon but otherwise, I stayed true to the classic. There is also a shot of gin because it tastes good and it wouldn’t be a punch if it wasn’t spiked, right?!
What I love most about this curd is it makes use of every egg yolk leftover from the pavlova shell, so I don’t have to stash them in the fridge with the best intentions to use them and then forget about them. It always sends me into a shame spiral. You can also add cream to your pavlova if you like, but I find the dessert is rich enough without it. Listen to your heart, it will tell you what feels right.
Now, let’s talk about this pavlova’s showstopper status. I styled this thing to high heaven because, well, I’m a food stylist and I really love doing that sort of thing. But if you’re less than enthused with the prospect, add a few citrus wheels and call it a day. I promise it will still look gorgeous. Pavlovas is naturally stunning, so I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Oh! And one more aesthetic note, your pavlova will likely form a few cracks. I personally don’t think they distract from the beauty of this dessert so I don’t tend to sweat them. But if you really hate them, try baking your pavlova at an even lower oven temperature than I listed below. It should help the situation.
So that’s everything you need to know about this Citrus Punch Pavlova. A showstopping dessert that instantly transports you to the tropics. And as the winter weather continues to drag on, what more could you want?
Citrus Punch Pavlova
- 1 Stand mixer with a whisk attachment
- 1 Large baking sheet
- 1 off-set spatula
For the Pavlova Shell
- 6 large egg whites
- 1 ¾ cups superfine sugar **
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tsp corn starch
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
For the Citrus Punch Curd
- 2 meyer lemons juiced
- 1 grapefruit juiced
- 1 orange juiced
- 1 lime juiced
- 1 lemon juiced
- ¾ cups granulated sugar
- 6 large egg yolks
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- ½ tsp salt
- 6 tbsp unsalted butter cold, cut into cubed
- 1 grapefruit cut into wedges
- 1 meyer lemon cut into wheels
- 6-7 bay leaves
- 4-5 bundles red currants
For the Pavlova Shell
- Preheat your oven to 325°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Trace an 8" cake pan with chalk or a pencil in the center of the parchment paper, then flip the paper so the drawn-on side faces down.
- In a heat-proof bowl, whisk to combine the egg whites, sugar, and vanilla. Place the bowl over a small saucepan with 2 inches of simmering water. *** Cook the mixture while whisking constantly until the sugar is fully dissolved.6 large egg whites, 1 ¾ cups superfine sugar **, 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Pour the egg white mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat the egg whites on high until stiff peaks start to form, about 4 minutes.
- Reduce the mixer's speed to low and add the cornstarch and the lemon juice. Increase the speed to high and mix for a minute more.2 tsp corn starch, 1 tbsp lemon juice
- Pile the finished meringue into the center of the circle you traced earlier. Form the meringue into a cake-like shape. Then, using an offset spatula, draw the edges toward the center in a series of swoops.****
- Transfer the pavlova to the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 225°F. Bake for 2 hours, then turn the oven off and leave the pavlova to rest in the oven for another 2 hours. Do not open the oven door at any point during the baking and resting process. *****
For the Curd
- Strain the fruit juices into a small saucepan. Add the sugar, egg yolks, and salt and whisk to combine. Ladle a small amount of the mixture into a small bowl and add the cornstarch, whisk to create a slurry. Set aside.2 meyer lemons, 1 grapefruit, 1 orange, 1 lime, 1 lemon, ¾ cups granulated sugar, 6 large egg yolks, 2 tbsp cornstarch, ½ tsp salt
- Place the citrus juice mixture over medium-low heat. Bring to a gentle simmer and whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Continue to heat while stirring constantly until the mixture thickens. Take the curd off of the heat and add the butter. Stir until the butter melts.6 tbsp unsalted butter
- Strain the curd into a bowl. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours.
- The center of the pavlova shell should have collapsed to form a cavity. Fill that cavity with the chilled curd and top with grapefruit wedges, lemon wheels, bay leaves, and currants. Serve immediately.1 grapefruit, 1 meyer lemon, 6-7 bay leaves, 4-5 bundles red currants