Thursday, 17 January 2013

What to cook for dessert on Australia Day: Pavlova, what else?!?

I've never made pavlova before. "What??!" I hear you say. "How can you call yourself an Australian baker?". I know, I know, it's terrible of me. It's been one of those things on the long list of dishes I've been wanting to Macarons (which I have and I'll post about soon...there's a sneak preview of them in the pic below). So when we were having a BBQ for Arielle, the kids and Andy being over from London and my cousin, Elisa's, Moroccan mother-in-law, it felt like the perfect opportunity to conquer the dish. I'm not saying it was 100% perfect first try, but it was pretty damn good. Crunchy on the outside and marshmallowy on the inside (just how I like it). I put greek yoghurt on top instead of cream much to my dad's dismay, to cut through the sugar a bit, and a heap of lovely fruit. The only thing I didn't like about mine is that it was a bit beige. It still tasted fantastic, but it wasn't that beautiful white colour. I've collected a few tips since cooking it, and I've incorporated them into the recipe below. So fingers crossed, if you follow this recipe you'll end up with a beautiful white pavlova for Australia Day.


6 egg whites, organic and free range
2 1/4 C caster sugar, superfine
1 1/2 tsp corn flour
1 1/2 tsp white vinegar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (NOT essence)
Plus whatever fruit and yoghurt or cream that you want to put on top

Preheat the oven to about 130 degrees celsius. Most recipes say 150, but I think that's what made mine go a bit beige.

Separate the egg whites out, making sure absolutely NONE of the yolk gets in, as that will ruin the pavlova. Don't make the same rookie error I did and put the whites straight into a bowl together. As you separate each white, put it into a small bowl and make sure it's clear of yolk, then put it into the bowl with the rest. I didn't, and ended up throwing away 6 egg whites.  Also, remember, it's easier to separate egg whites when the eggs are cold, but better to beat them when they are room temperature.

Make sure the bowl of the mixer is completely clean and dry, so there's nothing to interfere with the egg whites. When the egg whites are at room temperature, put them into the bowl of a mixer with a whisker attachment and beat on a high speed until the egg whites are fluffy.

Turn the speed down, and slowly add the caster sugar. Continue to mix until the mixture is thick and glossy with a hard peak.
That is, when you spoon some out, it's stiff, as opposed to runny of droopy. Next, beat in the 1 1/2 tsp corn flour, the 1 1/2 tsp white vinegar and the 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract. Now, a lot of recipes don't have these three ingredients in them, but from my research they might not be essential, but they make the recipe more likely to be a success (well, the corn flour and vinegar that is). The vinegar (or an acid) helps to stabilise the egg white foam. It reduces the effects of over-beating, which would make the pavlova collapse. The corn flour, or corn starch, helps to form a buffer to prevent the egg whites from overcooking. So my suggestion is use them. Make it easier on yourself. As for the vanilla, I just think most desserts taste better with a little vanilla extract.
So, once you've added the corn flour, vinegar and vanilla, mix until it's just combined.

Put a piece of baking paper onto a making tray and draw on the shape that you want the pavlova to form. I just wanted a circle, but maybe for Australia's day you can make it in the shape of Australia. I found that mine expanded a little, so just make sure you take that into consideration. I used a little bit of sour cherry coulis to help stick the paper to the tray (that's those strange red circles).
Spread the egg white mixture onto the tray. This higher it is, the more marshmallowy goodness in the middle. The thinner, the crustier it will be, so just adjust it to how you like it. If you want a nest in the centre to put the fruit and yoghurt or cream, just hollow it out a little.

Put the egg white mixture into the oven, turn it down to 100 degrees and leave it for about 1 1/4hrs or 1 1/2hrs. You're looking for a nice, crusty outside. If you want a crunchy inside, leave it for longer. Once you're happy with the way it's cooked, turn the oven off and leave it to cool completely with the pavlova in it.
You can make this a little in advance, and then just before you're ready to eat it, add all the toppings. Leave that till the last minute so it doesn't make the pavlova soggy otherwise it will loose it's crunch and shape. I used natural greek yoghurt, plus some gooseberries, passionfruit and blackberries on top, with a sour cherry coulis on the side. I wanted a raspberry coulis, but I didn't have any frozen raspberries in the figured I'd just use what I had, and it worked well.
A few tip's I've found along the way:
  • a clean mixing bowl will mean that the eggwhites reach maximum volume, which you want!
  • fresh eggs are more stable than older eggs once they are whisked, and they are easier to separate, so buy fresh eggs for this recipe. Don't use ones that have been sitting around in your fridge for a few weeks
  • superfine caster sugar is better than normal caster sugar or sugar. It dissolves faster into the eggwhites
  • make sure you add the sugar gradually, as it means it will take less time to whip the eggwhites
  • if you want to know if the sugar is dissolved, take a little bit of the mixture and rub it between your fingers and feel for any graininess
  • liquid seeping from the meringue mean it's undercooked.
  • sugary droplets on the surface of a cooked meringue mean it's overcooked
  • pavlova's that are super white are cooked at a VERY low oven temperature that's turned off and then left for hours, or even overnight. So if you have the patience, give that a go. If not, accept a little beigeness, as it doesn't affect the taste

1 comment:

  1. great tips for future reference. thanks.xx