Preheat oven to 300°F (150°C). With hand mixer on low speed, beat egg whites until foamy, then ddd salt. Increase speed to high and beat until soft peaks start to form. Gradually add 1 1/4 cups (300 mL) sugar, beating until glossy stiff peaks form. Sift 4 tsp (20 mL) cornstarch over top, pour in vinegar and vanilla, and fold into egg whites. Scoop onto parchment paper-lined baking sheet, shaping and swirling into a 9-in. (23- cm) round. Using a large spoon or spatula, make a 1/2-in. (1-cm) deep well in the centre, leaving a 2-in.(5-cm) border.
Bake 5 min., then reduce temperature to 250°F (120°C) and bake 1 hr. and 15 min. more, or until outside is crisp and dry. Turn off oven, then let stand in oven another 1 hr. Remove from oven to cool completely.
Meanwhile, melt butter in large skillet on medium-high heat. Saute pears with remaining sugar, cinnamon stick and star anise about 8 min., until pears are tender but not too soft. Meanwhile, in small bowl, whisk orange juice with remaining 1/2 tsp (2 mL) cornstarch until smooth and add to skillet. Bring to a boil. Add blackberries and gently cook for 2 min., until blackberries are just heated through. Cool completely. Strain fruit and reserve juices. Serve pavlova topped with strained fruit. Serve with reserved juices and whipped cream, if desired.
Meringues are most successful when made on a dry day as humidity affects the success of meringues.
When separating eggs for meringues, separate one at a time using a small bowl before adding to remaining egg whites.