A Pavlova is a disarmingly easy dessert. The trick to a good one is a meringue that has a crisp, crunchy exterior and a tender, airy center that has a texture like homemade marshmallow but is not gooey. The trick to accomplishing this is incredibly simple: the addition of a little cornstarch and vinegar.
Serve as soon as it is piled with the luscious topping because it will soon get soggy.
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Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the pistachios on a baking sheet and toast until just lightly golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Set aside.
Carefully rinse the strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. Hull and halve the strawberries. Place berries into a bowl with the sugar and vinegar. Set aside to macerate for 30 minutes.
Pour the cold whipping cream into a large bowl (or the bowl of a standing mixer if using). Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the cream. Using a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, a handheld mixer or a balloon whisk, whisk the cream until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes. Chill until ready for assembly.
When ready to assemble, place the cooled Pavlova shell onto a large platter. Mound the whipped cream in the center, then spoon the macerated berries over the cream. Crush the pistachios slightly (using a rolling pan or heavy pot); sprinkle the pistachios over top. Cut into slices at the table.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Draw an 8-inch circle on a sheet of parchment paper and line a baking sheet with the parchment.
In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk or using a handheld mixer, beat the egg whites and salt on medium-high speed until peaks form, about 3 minutes.
With the machine on medium speed, whisk in the sugar a little at a time, then turn the machine back to high to fully incorporate.
Add the cornstarch and whisk to blend, then add the vinegar and, when incorporated, whisk in the vanilla.
Pile the meringue onto the parchment paper, using a spatula to spread the meringue around the circle and piling the sides slightly higher than the middle. Put into the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 300 degrees.
Bake the meringue for 1 1/2 hours, then turn the oven off and prop open the door. Let the meringue cool down completely. It can be stored uncovered for several hours.
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