Pavlovas are dreamy. For the uninitiated, a pavlova (named after the famed ballerina's fluffy tutu) is essentially a meringue shell baked at low heat until the outside is barely golden crisp but the inside remains soft and billowy, like a creamy marshmallow. The shell then is typically filled with whipped cream, custard or fruit compote.
Pavlovas are a splendid choice for entertaining because contrary to what we might think of a delicate meringue, these guys are pretty hardy, and you can make them a day or two in advance. Just be sure to keep them in an airtight container so that they don't absorb ambient air moisture and lose their delightful crisp texture, and top just before serving.
Meringues are primarily two ingredients: egg whites and sugar. In this the good cop-bad cop pairing, sugar is definitely the bad cop, while egg whites are considered downright health food by many folks. (One egg white has 5 grams of protein, at only 25 calories and no fat.) The sugar is what gives the pavlovas their luscious interior. I wondered how low could I go on the sugar without ruining the texture and creating a weird protein puff that only my gym-friends would eat.
The answer: quite low. A typical pavlova recipe might have a ratio of 1/4 cup of sugar per egg white in the recipe. I found that I could cut the sugar in half with no noticeable impact on texture and taste. So I kept testing and reducing the sugar. And the very lowest that yielded a reasonable result was a ratio of 2 teaspoons of sugar per egg white, or one-eighth the typical amount of sugar.
At that level of sugar, the pavlova becomes less flowy and more airy and crisp, almost Styrofoam-y. Two of my kids actually preferred this version. Most of us felt like a little extra sugar was worth the nutritional profile impact, and so I've shared that version. Still a dessert victory if you ask me.