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Strawberry Pavlova Cupcakes

Do you remember that Eton Mess I made awhile ago? Well, these pavlova cupcakes are basically Eton Mess only—well, not as messy.  Pavlova is a dessert with a meringue base that was created when the ballet dancer Anna Pavlova was touring New Zealand and Australia.

One thing that separates pavlova from a normal meringue, however, is the addition of cornstarch and vinegar to the egg white mixture. It creates a chemical reaction in the cookie, resulting in a fluffy, marshmallowy center.

I received my inspiration for these cupcakes from none other than Donna Hay, the brilliant chef in Australia.  She had a brown sugar pavlova cupcake recipe in her summer issue of her magazine last year, and I used that as a guide.

If you will be serving these cupcakes to someone who is sensitive to gluten, please make sure to use all gluten-free ingredients, like the vinegar.

Strawberry Pavlova Cupcakes

1 cup fresh strawberries, cut in small pieces
2 tablespoons sugar
4 egg whites, at room temperature (they will separate easier when they are cold, though)
1 cup superfine sugar (or regular is fine)
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Mix strawberry pieces with 2 tablespoons of sugar. Set aside. Place 12 muffin liners in a muffin tin, set aside.

2. In a the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or in a medium bowl with a hand-held mixer), whisk eggs until stiff peaks form. With mixer still on high, gradually add in one cup of superfine sugar, about a tablespoon at a time. Keep whisking until egg whites are stiff and glossy. Mix in 1 teaspoon of vanilla, and whisk until just combined. Whisk vinegar and cornstarch into the mixer and whisk until just combined.

3. Spoon meringue mixture into prepared muffin liners (or large nut cups, like in the picture) until mixture just overflows the top of the liners. Use the back of a spoon to fluff out the meringue to create smooth little peaks (if desired). Or you can simply use a standard sized ice cream scoop to fill the liners, which also looks pretty.

4. Reduce oven temperature to 220 degrees, and bake for one hour. Turn off oven and allow to cool completely as the oven cools.

5. Whip cream together with confectioner’s sugar and a 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla until soft peaks form. Gently cut the tops off the cupcakes and fill with a dollop of whipped cream and a spoonful of strawberries.

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