Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Who loves Pav?

Pavlova is one of those things that we always eat around the holidays and the odd special occasion. My step mother is famous for them in our family, making two or three for every family get together.

I was home this past May when my dad told me that everyone was sick of them, and I thought "how could that be?". The crisp meringue exterior with the sweet marshmallowy interior - heaven in every bite. I am definitely not sick of them, I love them.

I haven't lived anywhere near home for the past ten years, so I do, in all honesty, miss 99% of the family gatherings, so every now and then the craving for something so deliciously sweet and simple comes rushing back....especially around the holidays.

We normally top ours with whipped cream and passionfruit, but I would be hard pressed to find fresh passionfruit at this time of year. Back home, if I was in a pinch for passionfruit, you can actually find the pulp in a can, and it's almost as delicious, sweet and tart, with luscious orange pulp and crunchy black seeds.

Bananas and kiwi are another staple topping (green and gold are our sporting colours), but for me, I love fresh berries - strawberries, if they are pink all the way through, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries. Mix them up with a teaspoon or two of sugar, add some of your favourite liqueur and watch the mouths drool.

Pavlova is also a wonderfully easy way to use up spare egg whites. If I don't plan on using them straight away, I freeze them and make sure there is a special occasion within 3 months.

This is definitely a family favourite, and until now a secret recipe handed down through many generations. Enjoy!

Australian Pavlova
recipe is exactly as it has been in our family for the past 100 years, or so
makes one pavlova about 10" / serves 8-10

6 egg whites
3/4 cup fine sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 & 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 300F.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until they are stiff. Add the sugar gradually, about 1 tablespoon at at time, until all in incorporated.
Before you add any of the remaining ingredients, rub a small amount of the meringue mixture between your fingers. All the sugar should be dissolved, you should feel nothing grainy when you rub your fingers together. If you do still feel grains of sugar, keep beating for another couple of minutes and check again. If your pavlova mixture is not completely smooth at this point, the pavlova will still cook but it will ooze an amber coloured liquid, which will harden and is perfectly safe to eat, it just looks wierd.

Add remaining ingredients and beat until well combined.

On a parchment lined baking sheet, scrape mixture out and form into a "cake" shape using an offset spatula. This does take a little practice, so if you prefer to leave yours more "rustic" looking, that's OK too, just get it into a general cake shape. When I make mine, it is about 8" in diameter and about 3" high. You can draw a circle on the underside of your parchment to use as a guide, if freehand is not your thing.

As you place the pavlova into the oven, reduce the temperature immediately to 270F, and bake for 1 hour and 45 minutes. The outside of the pavlova will still be soft at this point, and it will most likely be cracked (that's OK).

Turn the oven off and leave the pavlova to cool in the oven (with the door closed). This could take up to 6 hours, so be patient. If you don't leave it to cool down in the oven, it probably won't crisp up properly.

When the pavlova is cool, turn it upside down onto your serving plate (you are topping the bottom, so cracks on the top don't matter), top with whipped cream and the fruit of your choice.


3/4 cup whipping cream, whipped to soft peaks with 1 teaspoon white sugar
3 cups fruit, mixed with 1 teaspoon white sugar and optional 1 tablespoon of your favourite liqueur

Yum, yum, yum...can you really resist?

PS - just in case there is a debate about where the pavlova originated, it definitely is Australia!

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