In my personal opinion, pavlova is one of the most beautiful and delicious desserts you can serve and it’s actually not that difficult to make, although it does take a while to cook. I think it’s the combination of colours, tastes and textures that makes it such a winner – it’s crispy, creamy, sweet and tangy (especially if you use berries) and it melts in your mouth. I’m salivating just thinking about it!
I use the same recipe to make individual choc-chip meringues, simply adding chunks of chopped-up dark chocolate to the mixture. (If you’re not afraid to go OTT, you could even add chopped chocolate to the pavlova mix.) These are always a huge hit at parties, especially when served with very slightly sweetened, whipped cream. People who don’t normally even like meringues have told me that mine are the only ones they will eat. 🙂
Having said it’s not that difficult, I must admit that egg whites can sometimes be tricky. I’ve made the meringue mixture many, many times and it almost always works. Maybe one in 20 times it flops though (I’m not sure exactly why but I’m guessing it’s something to do with the eggs), so I always have a couple of spare eggs and extra castor sugar on hand, just in case I need to start again. You’ll know pretty early on if it’s not going to work and if that’s the case, just dump what you’ve done, wash and dry your bowl and mixers very well, and start again.
You can use any fruit on top, but I particularly like a mixture of fresh berries as they add a tang that contrasts nicely with the sweetness of the meringue – plus they look so beautiful! You could equally well use fresh sliced peaches, apricots, pears, mangoes, pawpaw, kiwis, bananas, granadilla pulp, cherries or any mixture of the above. Ideally choose fruit that isn’t going fall apart and produce a lot of juice when you cut it, as that looks messy and it can also start to dilute the cream. If you can’t get fresh fruit, the best tinned ones are cherries, blueberries, granadilla or tangerines/clementines.
If you have any pavlova left over (haha), you obviously need to keep it in the fridge. The next day the meringue will have started dissolving into the cream – not the same amazing combination of textures but still totally delicious.
- 2 egg whites, preferably at room temperature
- 1,5c castor sugar
- 1t vanilla essence
- 2T white wine vinegar or cider vinegar
- 2t baking powder
- 1T boiling water
For the pavlova filling:
- 1c whipping cream
- ±2t castor sugar
- Berries or other fruit of your choice
- Extra castor sugar for dusting
Optional extras for individual meringues:
- A bar of dark chocolate – cut into small pieces
- Chopped nuts
- Anything else you think might be nice (make sure it’s dry – extra moisture will dilute the meringue mix)
Preheat the oven to 140°C and cut a piece of baking paper to fit a big flat baking tray. If you’re making a pavlova, draw a circle on the paper to fit your serving dish – this provides a guide for the base. If you’re making individual meringues and adding chocolate or something else, cut it up now.
Then add half a cup of castor sugar at a time, beating well after each addition.
The sugar will dissolve in and the mix will start to hold some of its shape again. At the very least, it should hold the pattern of the beaters as you take them out.
If, after about 5 minutes of beating, you don’t get to this point, dump the mix and wash your bowl and beaters really well before starting again with fresh egg whites.
If all is well at this point, add the vanilla, vinegar, baking powder and boiling water.
When you add the boiling water, the baking powder will start to foam.
Immediately start beating again. The mixture will go a bit runny for a while but keep beating until it’s stiff enough again to easily hold its shape (otherwise the meringues will collapse onto the baking sheet).
For individual meringues:
Now add and beat in any extras, like chocolate or nuts, if you are using them.
Then use a teaspoon to drop balls of mix onto the baking paper. The meringues expand a lot in the oven so leave plenty of space between them. You can also pipe the mix if it’s plain – this obviously won’t work if there are chunks of chocolate in it.
Use a big spoon to drop about a third of the mixture onto the circle on your baking paper.
Spread the meringue mix out to cover the circle.
Then use a teaspoon to drop balls of mix around the edge of the circle to make your meringue nest. If you have mixture left over, drop teaspoons straight onto the baking paper to make individual meringues. Again you can also pipe the mix if it’s plain.
For meringues and pavlova:
Bake in the centre of the oven for about an hour, then turn off the oven and leave the meringue in for another hour or even overnight to dry out. If you want them gooey in the middle, lower the temperature a bit or bake for less time. Experiment with the temperature and time to get them how you like them.
Once the meringue is cooked, it should look something like this. Handle it very gently as it’s extremely brittle!
You can store it plain like that for a couple of days in an airtight tin, or freeze it (very carefully) if you aren’t going to use it soon, then defrost a few hours before you need it. I froze mine for a week and it was perfect when I defrosted it.
About an hour before serving, whip the cream with a little castor sugar. Taste it to see if you want to add any more sugar, remembering that the meringue is already very sweet.
Pile the cream into the centre of the pavlova and arrange your fruit on top. Sprinkle with a little extra castor sugar for decoration.
If you like, add a couple of individual meringues on top, or serve them separately on the side.
Leave the pavlova in the fridge until you’re ready to serve it. It will start going slightly gooey now that the cream has been added, so don’t leave it more than an hour or two (max).
If you’re serving individual meringues, pile them on a plate with a bowl of whipped cream nearby, and let everyone dig in and help themselves (just be sure to put some serviettes nearby to use to catch the crumbs and stray bits of cream)!
Serve meringues with:
- Slightly sweetened, whipped cream
- Cream cheese or creamed cottage cheese
- Ice cream
- Other fruit
- Lemon curd
© Alexandra Lawrence and Inspired Nourishment, 2014