This is one of those recipes that is great to have in your back pocket. Once you know the technique you can make dessert with a bare minimum of ingredients and such little effort.
Pavlova supposedly gets its name from the ballerina Anna Pavlova, maybe she was a fan of meringue or maybe the restaurant owner was a little smitten and wanted to charm her with dessert. Whatever the origin the country of origin is a little controversial, some claim it can be credited to Australia, others New Zealand, some people even say it has it roots in the US. Wherever the dessert hails from it spread worldwide to become one of the most popular desserts.
I generally tend to think of it as a summer dessert, pairing beautifully with summer berries, but there is nothing stopping this from being a great year round dessert, topping the meringue with whatever ingredients you have on hand.
For some reason Pavlova has a reputation of being tricky and I think that is a little unwarranted. It is a very quick process with just a few ingredients. There are a few things to bare in mind though that will help make your pavlova a success every time.
Use older egg whites. Very fresh egg whites dont whip as easily or to the same volume as older eggs, so dont pavlova with eggs straight from the supermarket. In a similar vein, dont use cold egg whites, they take longer to whisk up.
Whisk slowly. When you are whisking the meringue with the sugar, if you whisk on high speed, you're likely get to stiff peaks before the sugar has had a chance to dissolve, which can lead to sugar leaking out of the baked pavlova. A more sedate medium speed allows the sugar to fully dissolve before getting to the perfect texture.
Add an acid and cornflour. The perfect pavlova has a crisp exterior and a soft pillowy, almost marshmallow like inside. The acid (my preference is lemon juice, I dont really like a meringue that tastes of vinegar) helps to stabilise the meringue and the cornflour helps the pavlova retain moisture, creating the characteristic soft inside.
Bake low and slow. To get that perfect pavlova texture you bake the meringue mixture initially at a relatively higher temperature to help set the outside of the pavlova and give a nice crisp crust. The temperature is then turned down low and baked slowly. This prevents the pavlova turning crunchy and also keeps it bright and white.
6 large egg whites
350g caster sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp cornflour
1 tsp vanilla extract
600ml Double cream
lots and lots of berries
To make the pavlova preheat the oven to 130C and line a baking tray with parchment paper, drawing an 8-inch circle on the back as a template.
Rub a cut lemon around the inside of your bowl, this adds a little acid to help stabilise the meringue but also remove any residual fat on the sides of the bowl. Add the egg whites to the bowl and using an electric mixer whisk on medium speed. When whisking the bubbles will start off large and the mixture will still look rather wet. When the bubbles have increased in amount but become smaller in size, slowly start adding the sugar a tablespoon at a time. Continue whisking at medium speed until the meringue is stiff and glossy. You should also be able to rub the meringue between your fingers and not feel any sugar grains.
Add the cornflour, lemon juice and vanilla and whisk for a couple minutes to combine evenly. Scrape the meringue onto the parchment paper, pilling high in the middle of the circle. To create a decorative pattern carefully spread the meringue to the edges of the circle and like you’re a smoothing the buttercream on the sides of a cake, smooth out the sides of meringue so it is high and smooth. Use the back of your spatula to draw lines onto the sides of pavlova, at an angle, repeating around the whole side of the pavlova. Make these marks quite deep as they will lose some definition in the oven.
Place the pavlova into the oven and bake for 10 minutes before reducing the temperature to 90C and baking for a total of about 90 minutes. Turn the oven off and allow the pavlova to cool fully in the oven. This slow cooling down helps prevent the pavlova from cracking too much.
To serve top the pavlova with lightly whipped cream and lots and lots of fresh berries. Once topped with cream and fruit serve immediately.