03 December 2012
Summer baking . . . the magnificent pavlova
A fantastic way to bring the taste, smell & colour of Summer together is to plop fresh fruit & whipped cream a-top-a meringue = the magnificent pavlova. The story goes . . . an Australian chef created this dessert for visiting Russian Prima Ballerina Anna Pavlova. New Zealanders claim they created it, whatever, it tastes delicious. All i know is my English, chef trained, ultimate-1950's-house-wife-mother was the Queen of the Pavlova & it was essential eating after a Summer BBQ.
As a child, i remember my job was to slowly, every slow delicately, add the caster sugar to the egg white peaks in the Sunbeam mixmaster, so the sugar dissolved perfectly. This is a skill i've passed onto my 4 children purely so i can blog & fiddle around, while they painstakingly stand by the KitchenAid with a tablespoon . . . performing 'the most important job in the world!! Especially as my husband LOVES pavlova, he is very judgey.
There are vital parts to the making of a pavlova - the meringue has to be perfect. The delicate addition of sugar; baking it on foil; cooking it slowly in a cold oven; patiently letting it cool; & transferring it from baking tray to serving platter with extreme caution. For fear of my children eating aluminium, i carefully peel the foil off before plattering up, however, prepare to cry as your meringue base cracks & potentially sinks. Fear not, it still tastes the same & whipped cream hides all sins!! When i say whipped cream i mean - hold the mixing bowl over your head upside down & the-cream-doesn't-budge kind of whipping!!
The brilliance of the family pavlova includes asking the children which fruit they'd like to add & have them clean/ peel/ slice/ stone/ top & tail all the fruit they desire, then decorate it with gusto. This strawberry pavlova below is the handy work of my 3rd daughter, aged 11, who was on an artistic mission & a strawberry binge!!
Many will insist passion fruit is essential, i'm not going to argue, the smell of passion fruit growing on vines along my childhood swimming pool is pure bliss. I'm also partial to an entire fruit salad a-top-a pavlova too.
There are rules, however, it depends if you're on a diet or not, as to how large, high or fluffy you want your meringue to sit & how thick a-layer-of cream you smear on top. This mango adorned pavlova was mighty fine with it's 'thirds' layering.
My mother swore by the Australian Women's Weekly, however, i haven't been able to nail the tastey, firm yet fluffy pavlovas she mastered with the same recipe. I am certain there was a missing secret ingredient. Sadly, my mother has Alzheimer's & cannot remember if she tweaked the recipe. So for many years i've fiddled around & have finally developed a fail safe, delicious pavlova, where my hero ingredient is using the freshest of egg whites . . . as in, laid-on-the-other-side-of-our-kitchen-window-by-our-gorgeous-hens THAT DAY kind of fresh!!
Why do i bother making pavlova when it takes a couple of hours & you can purchase them . . . mine cost about $5 to make at home, they feed our family of six, twice + you get to lick the beaters & make mini meringues for your children too!! Oh & the fresh taste . . . drool.
5 egg whites
(organic chicken eggs are a little smaller than 'regular' store bought eggs & have larger yolks, so i use 5 egg whites from our hens, in a recipe which would normally use 4 supermarket eggs)
Cup of caster sugar
Tablespoon of cornflour
Teaspoon of white vinegar
Preheat oven to 120C & line a baking tray with foil. Beat egg whites in mixer on high until soft peaks form. Gradually add caster sugar until it dissolves (you can't feel any grains with your finger tips or on your tongue, just saying!!) Beat cornflour & vinegar very slowly until combined. Meringue should look glossy like a pearl. Spread meringue on the tray, carefully forming a circle with peaks or swirls around the edge. Bake for 75 minutes (don't let it go brown) & leave in the oven to cool with the door open.
Cream & Fruit
400ml thickened cream
& spread generously over meringue base. Add seasonal fruit of your choice.
egg whites are laid with love, homebrand cream $2, road side/ market stall seasonal fruit $3
(in Winter, tinned peaches are pretty fantastic!!)
Add a few drops of food colouring while mixing the meringue for a coloured base, ditto cream if you have a fun theme or just love colour.
Whip cream with a teaspoon of vanilla extract & sprinkle of icing sugar for sweetness.
Create individual pavlovas for a dinner party . . . divide & conquer!!
This recipes easily doubles or triples for parties & the meringue recipe can be layered (halve the mixture, cook two bases separately, sandwich cream between them) for a pavlova sandwich.
What to do with the left over egg yolks?? Why make yourself a hearty pasta carbonara for dinner of course!! Enjoy, love Posie