Pavlova – Two Ways (or Damn you Barefoot Contessa!)

It’s been intimated that J and I have some eating restrictions, me with the diabetes and J with dairy allergies as well as an allergy to artificial sweeteners.  That makes dessert a huge challenge.  I’ve resolved this challenge by making the same desserts two ways – one with Splenda and dairy (for me) and the other with sugar and dairy substitutes (for him).  A good example of this is my cobbler recipe.  I make a cobbler with almond flour in ramekins.  I do a ¼ cup of almond flour with ½ teaspoon of baking powder and 1 tablespoon of sugar and then mix in 1 tablespoon of melted butter, 1 tablespoon of almond milk and a dash of vanilla.  Spoon on top of about ½ a cup of chopped fruit (stone fruit like cherries and nectarines work best) and bake for half an hour at 350 degrees.  For myself, all I need to do is replace the sugar with the equivalent amount of Splenda and I’m set.

Sunday, J and I were going to Muffin and June’s for a BBQ with Bellisima and West Coast Rebecca.  Being summertime in the bay area, I decided to try my hand at pavlova.  For those of you who don’t know palvova, it’s a meringue shell that is mashmallowy in the middle.  It’s cratered in the middle as well so people traditionally pile it high with fruit and whipped cream.  Perfect dessert to highlight summer fruit.  Like the cobbler, I decided to make a version for me (whipped cream and splenda) and a version for J (lemon curd and sugar).  Because you can freeze the pavlova ahead of time, I tried my hand at pavlova on Friday night.  For the first time Ina Garten did me WRONG.  I made her Back to Basics it failed.  What I got was a gloppy mess of a meringue that was more the consistency of a meringue topping for a lemon meringue pie.  Never a waster, I decided to fold in the lemon curb to the failed meringue to lighten the lemon curd.

The next morning I did a little research (Nigella!) and saw that every OTHER cookbook was saying to bake the pavlova at 300 degrees as opposed to the 180 that Ina instructed.  I did the whole shebang again using the Barefoot Contessa recipe but using the oven temperature of Nigella Lawson (preheat to 350 and when you put it in, immediately drop temp to 300).  It was a huge success.  I tried it again using baking Splenda, and another HUGE SUCCESS!  So in one pavlova there were raspberries and blackberries over lemon curd and another pavlova there were the same berries over whipped cream sweetened with Splenda.  In fact, Muffin, who ate both versions, liked the Splenda version.  SCORE!

So here’s my sugar-free version of a pavlova.  To make it low-fat, simply use low-fat (or even nonfat cool whip).

  • 2 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar or granulated Splenda designed to be a 1 for 1 substitution (not the packets)
  • 1 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place a sheet of parchment paper on a sheet pan. Draw a 5-inch circle on the paper, then turn the paper over so the circle is on the reverse side. (This way you won’t get a pencil mark on the meringue.)

Place the egg whites and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat the egg whites on high speed until firm, about 2 minutes. With the mixer still on high, slowly add the sugar and beat until it makes firm, shiny peaks, about 2-3 more minutes.

Remove the bowl from the mixer, sift the cornstarch onto the beaten egg whites, add the vinegar and vanilla, and fold in lightly with a rubber spatula. Pile the meringue into the middle of the circle on the parchment paper and smooth it within the circle, making a rough disk. Bake for 1 1/2 hours. Turn off the oven, keep the door closed, and allow the meringue to cool completely in the oven, about 1 hour. It will be crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.

Invert the meringue disk onto a plate.  There will be a cracked crater of delciciousness that is perfect for lemon curd, whipped cream or just fruit and a dash of some old balsamic.

Crossposted at

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Pavlova – Two Ways (or Damn you Barefoot Contessa!)

  1. C Lapointe says:

    How can you call this sugar-free and then put it in the Recipe?

    • Eilis says:

      The reason it went wrong the first time is because Ina meant for you to put it to 180 Celsius which is 350 Fahrenheit.

  2. Bay Area Food Blog says:

    Sorry for the oversight. Splenda is a 1 for 1 substitute.

  3. lovin spoonful says:

    Do you know why your pavlova didn’t work the first time? You got the temperatures wrong! 180 degrees was for CELSIUS which is ~350 degrees fahrenheit. A simple think about this and you would have seen the error of your ways. Thus the initial instructions were correct…for the vast majority of the world who use metric.

    • briteyes says:

      @lovin spoonful:
      Actually, it’s Ina Garten who can’t tell Celsius from Fahrenheit. Believe me–I’ve been searching high and low for pavlova recipes my diabetic mother-in-law can have, and every time I run across hers, it very clearly states 180 F. (Which, I agree, is ridiculous.)

      • Sharon says:

        Actually 180 deg. C is 356 F. According to my Canadian husband. this is what I do when I bake pavlova. Bake for 350 deg. F. for 15 to 18 min. then turn oven off and do not open the oven door for at least 1 hour or overnite.

  4. Donna S says:

    Try this sugar free berry pavlova receipe.
    Note: In reply to above postings.
    Bake at 225°F (109°C) for about 1 hour or until it just begins to colour. Leave oven ajar and let cool completely. I’ve even ‘stored’ it in the oven. Keeps (leftover) pavlova ‘crisp’ and delicious!

  5. Thank you for this recipe, I look forward to making it for my pre-diabetic father in law!!
    Some negative comments on here, sheesh people! 😛

  6. sherry carter says:

    Thanks for the recipe. Making it this weekend for a dinner party where some of the guests and my husband are diabetic. I am not making ones with sugar. Will see how they go over. Makes an elegant dessert that is so easy to make.

  7. Penny says:

    2 years after the fact – STILL SAYS 180 F. I found that using this thing called google. Lovin spoonful, not very “lovin” to make fun of someone (for doing nothing wrong) who is just giving us a nice recipe.

  8. Loretta says:

    Can you make the shell in advance as you can the one with regular sugar.

  9. Gatsby says:

    The most fool-proof recipe for pavlova is Delia Smith’s: The key is to leave it in the oven overnight to let it dry completely.

  10. Jacinta Walters says:

    I often make pavlova in the morning for that night and therefore can’t leave it in the oven and I’ve found it really doesn’t make any difference. I always use Maureen Simpsons pavlova recipe and the oven temp is 190 reduced to 130 and cooked for for 75 mins for a 4 eggwhite pav, 90 mins for a 6 eggwhite pav. Her best tip is to have the pav 5-6 cm high for a good marshmallow centre. Her recipe has never failed for me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s