Fruit

Meet the Slablova: Pavlova for a Crowd

August 14, 2017

Truth time: I seriously love meringue. I could skip ice cream and eat a bowl of the stuff (if that was, you know, socially acceptable). But I love it most for its adaptability. It can form the lofty base of a delicate cake, it can be the soft beginnings of a rich buttercream, or it can be baked all on its own to crisp, crunchy, sugary perfection. I love to make pavlovas as a replacement for pie at times, because nearly everyone can eat them (even those avoiding gluten), and they’re an amazing showcase for fresh summer fruit.

A loose interpretation of cherrie pie Photo by Julia Gartland

For a recent party of mine, I thought about how best to make a pavlova to serve a crowd. I landed on a baking-sheet sized slab of meringue, served right on the tray. Was it a meringue-crusted slab pie? Was it a pavlova? It was clearly a slablova, and it was awesome: easy, fresh, colorful, and totally delicious. Here’s how you can make your own.

Start with a clean bowl and clean tools.

You wouldn’t want to throw yourself off before you even begin. Remember, fat is the worst enemy of whipping egg whites. Any fat or grease clinging to the surface of the mixing bowl or whip can prevent the egg whites from whipping up. Same goes for separating your eggs—there can’t be a speck of yolk in with your whites! Take care separating your eggs, and wipe out your mixing bowl with a little bit of distilled white vinegar before beginning.

Prep yourself to act fast.

Once you start whipping, everything happens pretty fast and you want to work quickly (a little bit of volume is lost in the foam with every passing minute). Make sure your oven is preheated and your baking sheet is ready to go.

What's my beauty secret? Photo by Julia Gartland

Don’t skip the cream of tartar.

Meringue is made by whipping egg whites with sugar, but a few extra ingredients will help ensure success. Cream of tartar, also known as potassium bitartrate, is an odorless white powder that acts as an acidic compound. It lowers the pH of the albumen in the egg whites and introduces low levels of hydrogen into the mixture, making them more prone to denaturing. It prevents proteins from bonding as whip egg whites—you do not want bonds forming between the egg whites' protein molecules. If chemical bonds form between these molecules, it can force the water (naturally present inside the egg whites) out of the aerated bubbles, making your meringue weepy, unable to form its trademark stiff peaks.

To get here, you have to act fast. Photo by Julia Gartland

Room temperature is the best temperature.

Egg whites whip up better and faster at room temperature, because then, their protein bonds can break down (and consequently, whip up) more easily.

Hello! I am the stiff peak you want. Photo by Julia Gartland

Start on low, and gradually increase speed

This breaks up the proteins in the eggs and starts to create the foam. Once the mixture appears foamy, raise the speed to medium and begin to add the sugar gently in a slow stream. (Don’t dump it all in at once—this will crush the base of the beautiful foam you’ve made.) Once the sugar is added, raise the mixer speed to high and continue to whip until the egg whites have reached full volume and form stiff peaks. How do you know what stiff peak is? Here’s a refresher: Soft peak meringue has very little structure and falls over completely into a soft mass. The medium peak meringue is shinier and whiter, but still soft looking. The stiff meringue holds a peak straight up and down and is bright white and very shiny. This meringue should be smooth and easily spreadable. If it looks clumpy or grainy, it has been overwhipped. If adding any flavoring to your meringue (like the vanilla extract in my recipe), add it right at the end of whipping, and mix just to combine.

Shape the slablova.

Transfer the meringue to the prepared baking sheet, and use an offset spatula to spread into an even layer, almost to the edges of the pan. I like to make the texture of the meringue swirly to leave lots of peaks and valleys, giving some crunchy bits and some chewy bits in the finished pavlova.

How would you top me? Photo by Julia Gartland

Crisp it real good.

Meringue isn’t “baked” so much as it is “dried”. The longer you allow the pavlova shell to dry, the more stable and less fragile it will be. I start by preheating my oven about 50 degrees hotter than the actual baking temperature (275° F, from 225° F). I lower the temperature as soon as I place the meringue inside, and keep it at 225° F for the remainder of baking. I recommend baking the pavlova for about 2 hours at 225° F, then turning the oven off and leaving the pavlova inside until it is completely cool, 3-4 hours more. In humid months, it may need to be dried longer—perhaps up to overnight in an oven with a pilot light, to make sure it’s fully dry. The pavlova may get a little bit of color, but ideally, it should be nice and white, even when it’s fully baked.

We chose cherries. Photo by Julia Gartland

Topping and Finishing

I opted for a whipped cream made slightly tangy by sour cream, and a layer of halved cherries. But the sky is the limit—your meringue shell is a crispy, sweet, and totally blank canvas, and top it with pretty much anything your heart desires!

10 Comments

Shaina C. November 17, 2018
I don't see when to add the cream of tartar. ...
 
Keitha August 13, 2018
I've made (regular sized) Pavlovas for several decades, but needed to make them for a crowd. I made two Slablovas using a total of 15 egg whites (3 days prior, I made a large quantity of lemon curd using the 15 yolks). Even though I can make a decent pavlova with my eyes closed, I followed this recipe and all the accompanying hints and tricks. Made the SlabPavs the night before they were needed, and just left them in the oven overnight. The bases were then protected and covered to keep them safe from the humidity. They turned out perfectly! Just before serving, I topped them with the lemon curd, then sweetened whipped cream with blueberries, raspberries and passionfruit on the top. Thank you!
 
AICHA S. June 4, 2018
Hi<br />If i bake on Thursday is it will good for saturday . I have to make 2 slablova. Thx
 
Jerry C. August 19, 2017
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Catherine L. August 15, 2017
I"ve always wanted to be able to make a pavlova for a crowd! Question: how long can you keep this bad boy (without the whipped cream + fruit additions) before serving? I imagine I'd have to make it the night before... will the meringue hold up?<br /><br />Thanks Erin! You are a badass baking inspiration!
 
Author Comment
Erin M. August 15, 2017
In winter, it would hold pretty well. In summer months, you likely want to serve it the same day. Unless you live somewhere very dry/have access to designate (like the bags of silica beads that come in some shoe boxes) that you can wrap it up tightly with.
 
frizz August 14, 2017
My gas oven doesn't go below 300 degrees. Would you recommend 300 for one hour? Or move to a new house, which, you know, is quite practical.
 
Author Comment
Erin M. August 15, 2017
Try baking it just until you begin to see it coloring (45 min- 1 hour), then turn off the oven and leave it in there just as the recipe suggests!
 
Sarah J. August 14, 2017
OMG: These photos are absolutely stunning!
 
Author Comment
Erin M. August 15, 2017
Wow! ❤️ Thank you!