First, apologies for the delay in posts. As some of you may know, my partner and I have just moved apartments. Don’t worry, while we officially live in West Melbourne rather than North Melbourne now, in reality we are literally three minutes’ walk from Errol Street. Di Bella is now in a direct line between me and my work, meaning I’m in there so often that several of the staff greet me by name. This is rather nice, but occasionally embarrassing.
Anyway, back to far more important things, namely pavlova. Pavlova is a crowd pleasing dessert. It’s nostalgic. It’s colourful and eye catching (depending on what it’s topped with). The flavours are familiar and popular. It involves copious amounts of whipped cream. It is named after a beautiful and talented Russian ballerina (Anna Pavlova). It’s even gluten free and vegetarian. Plus it seem light, meaning everyone feels able to fit in at least a little slither after dinner. To top it all off, I get to use my beloved Mixmaster to make it. My grandma makes a cracker of a pavlova, as do many other grannies nation-wide.
A few of you may have read one of my past blogs which mentioned my ‘pav-gate’ pavlova baking fail. The resulting light brown soggy mess was frankly devastating, particularly since I had previously considered pavlova a basic that was pretty foolproof. It took me a little while to regain my pav confidence. I convinced myself it had been the early morning bake time, but doubt still crept into my mind…
Happily, I can now say that I’m 100% back to my former levels of pav snobbishness. I can once again blithely whip these babies up for dinner party desserts and bring-a-plate BBQs. This weekend mangoes were down to $2 each at the Queen Vic Markets, so I snaffled up a couple and made a very nice little passionfruit and mango pavlova, even mixing a some passionfruit pulp into the whipped cream and decorating with a few well placed mint leaves. All the important elements for a super pav were there – crispy shell, marshmallow-like goodness in the middle, white glossy appearance, height, robust enough to hold lots of freshly whipped cream and topped with sexy looking seasonal fruit.
Below is my pav recipe. I certainly don’t think it’s the only good one out there, I highly doubt it’s the best one, but it’s simple, it works and it always wins me requests for seconds. It’s based on a combination of Donna Hay’s recipe, my grandma’s recipe and my own tinkering. Enjoy (preferably several slices)!
4 large eggwhites
250g pure icing sugar (or castor sugar)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 normal/dessert spoons cornflour
2 teaspoons white vinegar
Large flat oven tray
Baking parchment or greaseproof paper
Mixmaster or electric hand beater
– Beat the eggwhites until they start to look white rather than clear (soft peaks starting).
Add in vanilla essence. Don’t freak out if the mixture goes slightly brown, as you keep beating it will return to white.
– Beat in icing sugar until eggwhites look very white, thick and glossy and hold their shape. I’d recommend turning off the Mixmaster to tip in the sugar, otherwise the powdered sugar flies everywhere!
Beat in the vinegar and cornflour. Note that I often use white wine vinegar if I have no normal white vinegar, it doesn’t seem to matter.
– Place a sheet of baking paper on an oven tray. If you have baking parchment, this is probably fine as is, if you have normal greaseproof paper, best to oil it slightly with a flavourless oil (e.g. vegetable or canola).
– Tip the thick eggwhite mixture onto the paper and, using a spatula or knife, shape the mixture into a circle. You could draw a circle on the paper if you wanted, but personally, I’m happy with an approximate circle.
– Shape the mixture so that rather than having a flat top there is a very slight depression in the middle of it (meaning extra room for cream and fruit!).
– Place in the oven for between an hour and an hour and 30 minutes. This will depend a bit on how thick/high you formed your pav and a bit on the oven, humidity etc. Just check it regularly after an hour. You’re looking for a shiny appearance without it turning brown. If you tap the side of it, it should feel hard and crispy and sound kind of hollow.
– Once cooked, turn off the oven and leave in the oven to cool, preferably for several hours.
– Whip thick cream with a little sugar and (optional) vanilla essence. Top the pav with cream.
– Then top with fruit of your choice. For summer I like mango and passionfruit or a mix of berries. For a more classic pav, go with kiwifruit, strawberries and passionfruit.