I’m knee-deep in ex-pat activities here and one was a dinner party this weekend. Everyone had to bring a dish from their own country. I hear the Aussies internally groaning already. Pavlova won the day for me. In the 1920’s Anna Pavlova, a dancer from Russia, was touring Australia and New Zealand and this cake was invented in her honour. Only trouble is, the kiwis think that pavlova is their’s…mmnn…in any case, I had never made won before and always hated it as it’s usually made with passionfruit. But actually I’m a converted fan now. It was a great success and was polished off in minutes.
When preparing a Pavlova recipe, the most important thing is to have scrupulously clean utensils, free of grease or egg shell. The success of the meringue depends on it. It is also important that the egg whites are at room temperature before beating them. Pavlovas have a habit of deflating and forming cracks when you open the oven. Don’t be disheartened, just make some extra whipped cream to fill in the hole if this happens. It will still be a spectacular dessert. If you use bananas in the topping, toss them in lemon juice to stop them going brown.
- 4 large egg whites at room temperature
- 1 cup of Castor sugar, also known as “Berry sugar”
- 1 tsp of white vinegar
- 1/2 Tbsp of cornstarch
- 1/2 tsp of pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cups of whipping cream
- Fresh fruit such as strawberries, raspberries, kiwi fruit, passionfruit, bananas, blueberries
- 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- Preheat the oven to 275F (140C) and place the rack in middle of the oven. Line a baking tray with foil and draw a 7 inch circle on the foil with the blunt edge of a knife (don’t tear the foil). Set aside.
- In a clean, medium-sized metal bowl, beat the egg whites with a clean electric mixer on medium speed. Beat until the whites form soft peaks.
- Gently sprinkle the sugar into the egg whites, one teaspoon at a time. Don’t just lump the sugar in the bowl and never stop beating the eggs until you finish the sugar. Your egg whites should now be glossy stiff peaks.
- Sprinkle the cornstarch and vinegar on the meringue and fold in gently with a plastic spatula. Add the vanilla and gently fold the mixture again.
- Now gently spread the meringue in the circle on the foil to make a circular base. Make sure the edges of the meringue are slightly higher then the center so you have a very slight well in the middle.
- Bake the meringue for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until it goes a very pale, pinkish egg shell color.
- Turn the oven off and leave the door slightly ajar to let the meringue cool completely. As the meringue cools, it will crack slightly.
- Just before serving, take the meringue out of the oven and remove it gently from the foil and place on a plate.
- Whip the cream with the vanilla extract until it forms peaks. Prepare the fruit by washing and slicing.
- Gently spread the cream to the top of the meringue with a spatula and arrange the fruit on top.