Saffron Pavlova with Lemon Curd and Sage Cream
a celebratory dessert
Every year on my birthday, I prepare something to share with my family. This year, I was craving pavlova. I love a dessert that isn’t overly sweet, and celebrates seasonal fruit. In this case I dressed it up with winter citrus, fresh sage and pomegranate seeds. The method can easily be adjusted for any time of year.
For the Pavlova
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 1/4 teaspoons cornstarch
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 large egg whites (at room temperature)
Pinch of salt
Pinch of saffron
For the Lemon Curd
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice (Meyer or regular)
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup sugar
1 pinch salt
1 cup unsalted butter
Make the Pavlova
Place rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 250°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Stir the cornstarch into the sugar in a small bowl.
In a large bowl of a heavy-duty mixer, fitted with whisk attachment, whip egg whites, cream of tartar and salt, starting on low, increasing incrementally to medium speed until soft peaks/trails start to become visible, and the egg white bubbles are very small and uniform, approximately 2 to 3 minutes.
Increase speed to medium-high, slowly and gradually sprinkling in the sugar-cornstarch mixture. A few minutes after these dry ingredients are added, slowly pour saffron tea. Increase speed a bit and whip until meringue is glossy, and stiff peaks form when the whisk is lifted, 4 to 5 minutes.
Spoon the meringue into an 9-by-6-inch oval on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicon liner. With the back of a spoon, create an indentation in the middle of the mound for holding the filling once meringue is baked.
Place baking sheet in the oven. Reduce oven temperature to 225°F. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the meringues are crisp, dry to the touch on the outside, and white — not tan-colored or cracked. The interior should have a marshmallow-like consistency. Check on meringue at least once during the baking time. If it appears to be taking on color or cracking, reduce temperature 25 degrees, and turn pan around.
Gently lift the meringue from the baking sheet and cool on a wire rack. It will keep in a tightly sealed container at room temperature for up to a week barring any humidity.
Make the Lemon Curd
Pour water to a depth of about 2 inches into a saucepan, place over medium heat, and bring to a simmer.
Combine the lemon juice, whole eggs, yolk, sugar, and salt in a stainless steel bowl that will rest securely in the rim of a saucepan over, not touching, the water. (Never let the egg yolks and sugar sit together for more than a moment without stirring; the sugar will cook the yolks and turn them granular.) Place the bowl over the saucepan and continue to whisk until the mixture becomes very thick and registers 180° F on a thermometer. This will take 10 to 12 minutes. If you don’t have or trust your thermometer, don’t worry. It should thicken to the point that your whisk leaves a trail through the curd.
Remove the bowl from over the water and let cool to 140° F, stirring from time to time to release the heat.
Meanwhile, cut butter into 1-tablespoon (15-ml) pieces. When the cream is ready, leave it in the bowl if using an immersion blender, or pour it into a countertop blender. With the blender running, add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time, blending after each addition until incorporated before adding the next piece. The cream will be pale yellow and opaque and quite thick.
You can use the cream immediately, or pour it into a storage container with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate for up to 5 days. To use after refrigeration, if necessary, gently heat in a stainless steel bowl set over simmering water until it has softened, whisking constantly.