Peaches and cream hop onto meringue and have never felt happier. I ditch any add-ins to the whipped cream, letting its simple richness shine, and spike the sugary peaches with some salt and pepper. A word to the wise: Meringues are so sensitive to humidity. Figure the crisper the weather, the happier the pavlova. If your environment is humidish, get the meringues in an airtight container as soon as they are cool, to keep safe before serving. —Emma Laperruque
Make the meringues. Preheat the oven to 300° F. Line two baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment.
Rub the inside of the bowl of a standing mixer with the lemon half. Now squeeze the juice (discarding any seeds) into another tiny bowl—this will come in handy soon!
Add the egg whites and salt to the lemony standing mixer bowl. Fit the mixer with the whisk attachment. Start mixing on slow, gradually increasing the speed to medium-high. Mix until the egg whites form big, billowy, soft peaks, about 3 minutes. Now gradually add the sugar, slowly streaming in 1 teaspoon at a time (yes, this will take awhile! Figure a couple minutes). Once all the sugar is in, continue mixing at medium-high until stiff peaks form, another few minutes. Stop the mixer and fold in 1 teaspoon of lemon juice by hand.
Plop 4 equally sized blobs of meringue on each lined baking sheet (you’ll have 8 total). Use an offset spatula to spread the blobs into circles roughly 3 inches in diameter, making a swish in the centers, so the edges are slightly higher.
Get the baking sheets in the oven and immediately lower the temperature to 250° F. Bake for about 45 minutes until dry and firm to the touch. Turn the oven off and leave the pavlovas in there to cool for 1 1/2 hours, then remove to cool completely at room temperature. (If your home is especially humid, cool completely in the oven.)
An hour or so before serving, prepare the peaches. Mix those, the sugar, pepper, and salt in a bowl. Stick in the fridge to macerate.
Right before serving, whip the cream to soft peaks.
Assemble the pavlovas. Spread each one with swirls and swooshes of whipped cream, then top with peaches and drizzle their syrup on top. Eat immediately.
Emma is a writer and recipe developer at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing stories about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now, she lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter.