Really everybody likes pavlova, which makes it an excellent dessert for your Christmas dinner. Just do not open the oven while baking. Peek through the window instead. Also, a pavlova will crack—they are supposed to look that way, so basically they can’t fail. You can make this a day in advance. If you do, don’t store it in the fridge but leave it in the oven until serving. Foam doesn’t like condensed moisture. If your pavlova does collapse after all, do not despair: Simply turn it into a trifle using the recipe on the next page. You see, every problem has its solution; never panic.
Make the pavlova:
In a squeaky-clean bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Continue beating while adding the cornstarch, vinegar, and salt.
Mix the sugars together. Once the egg whites form stiff peaks, add the sugar one spoonful at a time, beating constantly and waiting to add the next spoonful until the previous one has been completely absorbed. Continue beating the egg white mixture until stiff and shiny.
Scoop onto the parchment paper–lined baking sheet with a spatula, forming a large circle. Be generous, and shape beautiful curls around the edges with the back of a spoon.
Make the poached pears: Peel the pears, leaving the stems. Place them upright in a large saucepan and add all the other ingredients. If needed, add water so they are well submerged. Cover with parchment paper cut to size and let simmer for about 1 hour, or until they are tender through and through. Using a slotted spoon, gently remove them from their cooking liquid and let cool. Over high heat, boil the cooking liquid until reduced to a syrup. Strain through a sieve and let cool.
To assemble: fold the whipped cream into the sour cream. You can stir in a splash of liqueur, if you’d like. Fill the pavlova with the cream mixture. Arrange the pears on top, and perhaps drizzle some lines of melted chocolate across or sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve the reduced wine syrup on the side.
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