Pavlova seems to be something a lot of people are scared of making; I don't think I'm ever scared of baking anything but maybe that's because I know unless you burn it to a crisp it normally tastes good regardless. ;-) Pav is pretty straightforward to make, though it helps if you have electric beaters or a stand mixer. The recipe is about as simple as they come; these are the ingredients:
|Well, if you ignore quantities anyway... The egg white/vinegar ratio is waaaay out in this pic|
Apart from having either the manpower or machinepower to beat your egg whites to a froth the other key elements to success are ensuring there's no yolk in your egg white, and cooking at a low temperature and leaving the pav to cool in the oven so there's no dramatic temperature change.
The egg whites need to be beaten until soft peaks form - that means if you lift the beater out the foam should spike up then flop over.
You gradually add the sugar and beat until it's lovely and glossy...
... then add cornflour and white wine vinegar and fold it together. See, easy peasy!
I don't remember when I made my first pavlova (though I know I made a series of experimental ones in home economics at school!) but I do remember when my sister made her first, for somewhat unfortunate reasons. I had just discovered making my own bread and had decided to whip some up. Beth, unbeknown to me, had earlier had her own bout of domestic goddessness and had made a pavlova for the first time ever, following the instructions carefully and leaving it in the oven to cool so it wouldn't collapse. I rocked up, turned on the oven, and the first we knew of each others' baking exploits was when the burning smell started floating into the kitchen. I don't really remember much else, except that I was perhaps not my sister's favourite person that evening (to be fair, I don't think I was overly happy with the outcome either; I'd have pavlova over bread any day!). So let that be a warning to you; check the oven before you turn it on, lest there be an innocently cooling pavlova inside it!
My favourite part (except the eating part, of course) is shaping the big blob of fluffy, marshmallowy meringue into a cake. I normally like things to be uniform and perfect and smooth down all the edges but in the case of pavlova I prefer a few folds and ridges - perhaps this is related to the perfectly round yet oh-so-boring pavlovas you can get in the supermarket. Speaking of which, has anyone noticed there's a product in the baking aisle now called "Pavlova Magic"? You only have to add water and sugar to make your fluffy dessert - but I think it was about $8 which is probably about three or four times as much as the cornflour, vinegar and eggs cost, so I decided to leave it on the shelf, but I'm curious to know if anyone has tried it.
As you can see, my fluffy pile of goodness did crack a little, even though I cooled it slowly and carefully in the oven. I think the oven may have been too hot, as the crust was a bit too thick for my liking as well - and I am keen to try the method of pav baking where one heats the oven then puts the thing inside and turns the heat off straight away, to see how that changes the textures.
Anyway, it doesn't matter if it's a bit cracked when you load cream, raspberries and passionfrut on top! In fact, it'll just look like it's groaning under the weight of the decadent toppings. Perfecto!
But how about the true test; does a slice come out cleanly?
Woohoo! It worked! And it tasted delicious, which is really all that matters. I will happily accept all tips and tricks on how to prevent the cracked shell, though - ideas, anyone?
Pavlova (from Donna Hay)
4 egg whites
1 cup/220g caster sugar
3 tsp cornflour
1 tsp white vinegar
cream and fruit for toppings
Preheat the oven to 150 C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Slowly add the sugar, beating well until glossy. Sift in the cornflour and add the vinegar and fold until combined. Turn onto the baking paper and spread mixture to approximately 18cm round. Place in oven and immediately reduce temperature to 120 C. Bake for one hour then turn the oven off and allow the pavlova to cool. Top with cream and fruit to serve.