A Pavlova is a variation of a meringue, in which the outer shell is crisp and crunchy and the inner core is like marshmallow – light, soft and chewy. It is traditionally covered in whipped cream and decorated with fruits and maybe some shredded chocolate… which reminds me, I should put Flake on my shopping list for when we go home next.
Aussies and New Zealanders have a fierce argument going on about where exactly the Pavlova originated. All we know for sure is that it was named in honour of the ballerina, Anna Pavlova – apparently it was light and airy, just like her dancing. The Wikipedia page purports that “formal research” suggests the Pavlova hails from New Zealand… but considering this was published by the University of Otago – in New Zealand! – I doubt how unbiased it truly is. Being Australian, I of course take our own side. The “Pav” is ours!
My Gran was always the Pavlova-maker of our family. For every occasion, she’d make a Pav… until about 10 years ago when she got a new oven and swore it couldn’t make them like her old oven. It was one of the first things she taught me to bake, after cornflakes cookies. I always think of her when I make one, and how she would scold me for leaving the little white lump in the egg whites. She loved her old wive’s tales.
If you are sensitive to table sugar, then the Pavlova is probably going to cause some sort of reaction. If you are diabetic, then stay away! The main ingredient is sugar. This is definitely a “sometimes” food, in all meanings of the word; desserts like this shouldn’t be eaten every night, or you’ll end up like the side of a house.
For FMers, reducing your daily fructose load can be done by limiting your sucrose (table sugar) intake, even though sucrose is 1:1 fructose/glucose, which technically assists with fructose absorption but is seems that if you gorge on sucrose the glucose co-transport system will eventually be overwhelmed and symptoms will ensue. If you’re worried, just make sure you really cut back on fructose before eating a slice of this beauty. I can get away with a slice of Pavlova (okay, sometimes two) and not react.
- 4 egg whites, at room temperature*
- 1 pich table salt
- 250 g castor sugar
- 2 tsp. corn starch or 1 tsp. potato starch
- 1 tsp. white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 300 ml/half pint of double/heavy whipping cream
- Fruits of your choice
*The rule of thumb with Pavlovas is to use eggs left to come to room temperature over night. However, when I do this, my batter doesn’t form a stiff enough peak and I end up having to add extra sugar. I find the best thing is to leave the egg whites out of the fridge for 20 minutes to take the chill off but still leave enough of the cool in there to help the peaks maintain their shape.
Before you start – you can’t make a Pav in an overly warm or a humid environment. The peaks wont stay formed. Don’t use your dishwasher beforehand and don’t have the heater on! A nice, breezy kitchen is best. But isn’t it always?
Preheat your non fan-forced oven to 180 C/350 F.
Beat the salt and egg whites at high speed for about 5 minutes – this allows satiny peaks to form. The more air in your batter, the stiffer the peaks.
Gradually add the sugar, in two or three bouts, and continue to beat on high until stiff, shiny peaks form. Ensure that the sugar is thoroughly mixed through and not coating the base of your mixing bowl. Scrape it in with a spatula and re-mix if this happens.
To test if you have stiff peaks, raise the beater out of the batter and see if the resultant peak stays upright. If it sinks back into the mixture, keep beating until it doesn’t. If you are very confident of your peaks, the “gold standard” test is to hold your mixing bowl upside-down and see if the mixture stays inside (which it should!)… but this takes some guts. It’s a fun trick to scare Pavlova newbies with, though.
Sometimes you might need to add a little extra sugar to help the peaks form properly – however, do this sparingly as too much sugar will not be able to combine with the egg whites and will make for a “syrupy” Pavlova that will stick to baking paper and be brittle.
Once you have stiff peaks, sprinkle over the corn starch, white wine vinegar and vanilla extract and beat in on a slow speed.
Heap the mixture onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. Place it in the middle shelf of your oven and immediately lower the temperature to 150 C/300 F. Set the timer for 30 minutes. Next, lower the temperature further to 120 C/250 F and set the timer for a further 45 minutes.
If your Pavlova develops beads of moisture on its surface, that means it is over-cooking. It isn’t a failure, though. It might just end up a little extra crunchy in the middle. Reduce the temperature a little for the remainder of the cooking time if you see this happen, to try and prevent excessive dryness in the centre.
When it is done, turn off your oven and let the Pavlova cool in there with the door closed.
To serve, place on a cake stand/plate. Cover it with whipped cream and decorate with fruit. “Favourable” fruits, of course. For a slightly richer cream, add some vanilla extract before you whip it. And get creative with the decorations! You can lay out fresh fruit in patterns or serve it with a fruit compote.
Enjoy!You can’t get more traditional than passion fruit.