Pavlova is a meringue-based dessert named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova.
The dessert is believed to have been created in honor of the legendary dancer either during or after one of her tours to Australia and New Zealand in the 1920s. The nationality of the pavlova’s creator has been a fierce source of argument between the two nations for nearly a century and both countries consider it to be solely theirs.
Since TFD knows better than to put himself in the middle of a culinary holy war, he wisely abstains from the debate by naming his personal recipe after the region of Oceania, which includes both nations and will let history decide the ultimate victor. 🙂
Christmas and pavlova are an essential combination in both Australia and New Zealand. On a hot Christmas Day (remember, this is the Southern Hemisphere, where Christmas in in the height of Summer!) the luxurious pavlova, with its sweet crunchy meringue crust, marshmallow-like center, topped with clouds of cream and berries is just magnificent.
I hope you will give this wonderful dessert a try, Citizens!
Battle on – The Generalissimo
For the Pavlova shell
6 egg whites (at room temperature)
1 ¾ cup caster sugar
2 teaspoons cornflour
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla paste
1 tablespoon boiling water
For the lemon curd
4 large egg yolks
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup finely grated, loosely packed lemon zest (from about 5 to 6 medium lemons)
⅓ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 3 to 4 lemons)
⅛ teaspoon fine salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter (¾ stick), cut into 6 pieces, at room temperature
For the topping
1 cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
1½ cups fresh berries, such as raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and/or sliced strawberries
You really do need a cake mixer with a whisk attachment, however a handheld beater will also work, you just need the patience to stand holding it.
The bowl should be glass or metal.
The mixer and bowl should be scrupulously clean and grease free. The reason for not using a plastic bowl is that grease can stick to this which will stop your egg whites from reaching their maximum volume.
Eggs should be at room temperature and when separating, take care that no egg yolk makes it into the bowl at all.
Very fresh eggs are not ideal as the whites are very thick: as the egg ages, the white thins and will create more volume when beaten.
Caster sugar dissolves easier than regular white sugar, however if you don’t have caster sugar on hand, then you can whizz regular white sugar in the food processor until it is super fine.
The more sugar you use in the recipe, the thicker and more brittle the crust will be.
Generally the ratio of sugar to egg is 55g of sugar to 1 egg white.
Different recipes have varying stabilizers that help the egg whites to retain their volume and give the desired texture of a marshmallow interior and a crisp meringue shell.
The addition of acid in a recipe is usual, sometimes a bowl will be rubbed with lemon or lemon juice, otherwise vinegar, lemon juice or cream of tarter will be in the ingredients.
A small amount of cornflour is also often used and it is debated as to whether this aids the soft inner texture or just helps to stabilise the egg whites.
A tablespoon or more of boiling water is also common.
Try rubbing a little meringue mixture between your thumb and forefinger – it should feel smooth with no grains left.
While it may then seem logical that the longer beating the better – this is not so. Over beaten egg whites will cause oozing syrup from your pavlova. Not weeping like an undercooked pavlova, but colored liquid bubbles popping out from the meringue itself.
I would advise 15 minutes maximum of beating. Your mixture should be thick and glossy and form peaks when the beater is lifted from the mixture.
This mixture is then piled into a circle on a baking paper-lined tray. Drawing a ring with pencil around the underside of the paper using a cake pan for guidance is a good way to get a uniform shape.
Usually a pavlova recipe will have the addition of vanilla as a flavor. Quality vanilla extract is recommended for a pure flavor. Avoid vanilla essence as it is made with synthetic ingredients.
Oven and Cooking
Pavlovas are usually cooked at a long slow temperature and the oven door must not be opened at all! Once the cooking time is finished, the pavlova is left to cool in the oven so as not to have any dramatic change in temperature that could cause collapse.
Some cooks start their pavlova off briefly at high temperature. I prefer to cook mine long and slow. Basically the cooking is to remove moisture from the pavlova – to dry it out, I find this is best achieved at 120 C or less. The higher the heat, the more chance you have of your shell cracking.
You do need to make sure that your pavlova is thoroughly cooked though, as undercooked pavlovas can weep clearish egg white looking liquid from the base.
Storage and Weather
Pavlovas are best stored in an airtight container and should be fine for a few days. Humidity affects this and it is said that you shouldn’t make pavlova or meringues on a humid day.
Preheat oven to 110 C. Place egg whites in the bowl of a mixer (ensuring bowl and whisk are perfectly clean).
Whisk until soft peaks form when the beater is lifted from the mixture. Continue to mix, gradually adding sugar at a tablespoon or so at a time and waiting between each addition, add cornflour with last of the sugar. Adding all of the sugar could take 5-6 minutes.
Continue to mix until you can’t feel any sugar when a small amount of mixture is rubbed between your index finger and thumb. Lastly add vinegar, vanilla and boiling water and allow to mix a minute more.
Using a pencil draw a 24cm circle with a cake pan for guidance on a piece of baking paper. Place the baking paper, pencil side down, on a baking tray. Spoon the meringue into the circle, smoothing the sides.
Place the tray in the oven and cook for 1 ½ hours. Turn the oven off without opening the door and allow to cool for at least 2 hours more or overnight.
Invert pavlova onto a serving plate, peel off baking paper.
For the lemon curd:
Fill a medium saucepan with 1 to 2 inches of water. Bring water to a simmer over high heat. Once water is simmering, reduce heat to low to keep the water at a bare simmer.
Whisk the egg yolks, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt together in a large heatproof mixing bowl.
Set the bowl over the saucepan of simmering water and whisk constantly until the yolks thicken and the mixture forms ribbons when the whisk is lifted from the bowl, about 7 to 10 minutes. (Keep an eye on the water in the saucepan to make sure it does not boil. If the water boils, reduce the heat so the eggs do not curdle.)
Turn off the heat and take mixing bowl off of the saucepan. Whisk the butter into the lemon/egg yolk mixture one piece at a time, waiting until each piece is completely mixed in before adding another.
Use a fine mesh strainer to strain curd into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Press and scrape the curd along the inside of the strainer to release as much of the curd as possible. (Make sure to scrape the strained curd from the under side of the strainer into the mixing bowl. You don’t want to lose any of the delicious lemon curd!) Discard the solids from inside the strainer.
Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the curd to prevent a skin from forming. Place in refrigerator until curd is set and chilled, at least 3 hours. (The curd can be made and refrigerated up to 5 days ahead.)
Place the cream, sugar, and vanilla in the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until soft peaks form, about 1½ to 2 minutes.
Remove the bowl and, using a rubber spatula, fold the chilled lemon curd into the whipped cream, leaving big streaks of curd and whipped cream.
Spread the whipped cream/lemon curd mixture on top of the pavlova.
Top with the fresh berries and serve the pavlova immediately.