Make Your Fluffernutter Jealous: Mini Peanut Butter Pavlovas.
Ok, so my guess is you are wondering what is a Pavlova and then thinking this looks way too hard to make. But, looks can be deceiving. Let's start with the Pavlova part. A pavlova, (named after the Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova), is nothing more than sweetened egg whites whipped into a beautiful fluffy mass. Very similar to a meringue cookie except not as hard.
Most often, a Pavlova is served with fruit and whipped cream creating a study in textures and sweetness, all good things in a dessert. The Pavlova is baked at a low temperature until the outside is crisp and the inside is something similar to marshmallow. For this recipe I swirled creamy peanut butter into the whipped egg whites creating a grown-up version of a Fluffernutter (best sandwich ever invented).
I topped them with bananas, whipped cream and, to gild the lily, a smoky sea salt caramel sauce. You can easily make the meringues days in advance of when you plan to serve them. The caramel sauce can be homemade (and in advance) or you can substitute store bought. Don't be temped to use canned whipped cream though. Freshly made, unsweetened whipped cream, is essential for this recipe as the meringue is sweet, as well as the caramel, and the whipped cream provides a welcome counterpoint to all the sweetness.
For this recipe, I made individual meringues, but you can simply make one large Pavlova (the more traditional way).
Ingredients for the Pavlovas
1 cup sugar, preferably superfine
1 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup natural (preferably salted) peanut butter, stirred well
1 cup heavy cream
1 large, ripe banana
1/3 cup roasted and salted peanuts, roughly chopped
Ingredients for the salted caramel
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon smoked sea salt, crushed or kosher salt
To make the Pavlovas
Preheat the oven to 275° F.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Trace 8 3-inch circles on parchment paper and flip it upside down on the baking sheet.
• Mix the sugar and cornstarch together thoroughly and set aside.
• Combine the egg whites and the cream of tartar in the mixer bowl. Using the whisk attachment, beat on medium high speed (in the stand mixer) or high speed (with a hand-held mixer) until the egg whites are creamy white and hold a soft shape when the beaters are lifted. Gradually add the sugar mixture, a heaping teaspoon at a time (do this slowly and steadily). You should have a very stiff, creamy-looking meringue.
• Scatter small spoonfuls of the peanut butter over the meringue. With a large rubber spatula, fold the peanut butter partially into the meringue leaving lots of streaks and pockets of unmixed peanut butter visible.
• Spoon the meringue onto the traced circles and use a metal icing spatula or a rubber spatula to sculpt into a low domes. Bake the pavlovas for 1 hour or until it looks golden brown and feels crusty on the surface, though it will be marshmallow-y inside. It may be cracked on the surface-that’s ok.
• Set the baking sheets on a rack to cool completely. If you are not serving the Pavlovas the same day, cover loosely and leave them at room temperature; they keep for several days.
To make the caramel:
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar and water over medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and bring to a boil, without stirring. If necessary, use a wet pastry brush to wash down any crystals on the side of the pan. Boil until the syrup is a deep amber color, about 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the sugar from the heat and carefully whisk in the heavy cream. The mixture will bubble. Stir in the unsalted butter, and salt. Transfer the caramel to a dish and cool. This recipe makes more caramel than you will need. Keep the extra covered and refrigerated for up to 3 weeks.
Right before serving:
Whip cream until stiff peaks form.
Thinly slice banana and arrange on top of pavlovas. Top with whipped cream. Drizzle with caramel as pictured and scatter peanuts on top.
Tips for success:
• Make sure the bowl and beaters of your mixer are squeaky clean. Any residue of butter or grease will prevent the egg whites from whipping.
• Bring your eggs to room temperature before using (place them in a bowl of hot water to speed the process).
• When making the whipped cream, chill the beaters and the whisk. Cold equipment is whipped creams best friend.
• Use natural peanut butter and stir in the oil that seperates very well before using.