Ah the Pavlova! A magnificent cloud of cream, meringue and seasonal fruit. This dessert is said to have been named after a Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova. It was created in honour of this dancer during her tour to New Zealand and Australia in the 1920’s. I was introduced to the Pavlova at a family friends house many years after we started living in New Zealand. It quickly started to mark the start of summer as this is when this dessert is most popular. On Christmas day, most families serve up their own version of Pavlova for their loved ones. This airy, marshmallowy, meringue-based dessert is loved by everyone. Adding cream and the fresh fruits of summer make it even more special. Below I will show you how to make an easy homemade pavlova alongside some tips to get the best result.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED
To make the pavlova, you will preferably need a standing electric mixer with a whisk attachment. You could use a hand held beater but be prepared to practice some serious patience. Use a glass or metal bowl only. I use the KitchenAid stand mixer which works really well to mix everything together. By using a standing electric mixer your hands are free to gradually add in ingredients as necessary. Be sure that all of your equipment is clean and dry so that the egg whites are free to reach their maximum volume.
Anything involving whipped eggs strikes fear into the hearts of new bakers (me included). However meringues are actually really easy to make. As long as you follow the basic principles, you are good to go. The little secret is to do your absolute best to keep the egg whites away from anything that will destroy it. This includes anything from the egg yolks to equipment that is not clean and dry.
It is really important that no egg yolk gets into the egg whites. Not one drop of yolk. This is because it can potentially deflate the egg whites. Your eggs should also be at room temperature. Use eggs that are not fresh, perhaps eggs that are at least a few days old. This is because slightly aged egg whites create better volume. Also use decent sized eggs. I used eggs that were a size 7 and found this created a good sized meringue.
For this recipe, caster sugar dissolves better than regular white sugar. If you do not have caster sugar, you can use regular sugar. This just means you will have to ensure the sugar and egg whites are beaten really well until the egg whites become super fine. Alternatively you can pulse the sugar in a food processor to make it finer.
It is important to add the sugar in 1 tbsp at a time, slowly, so that it dissolves well. You will be whisking the egg whites after the addition of sugar as well. This is to make sure the sugar crystals are fully dissolved.
When mixing the egg whites and sugar you are looking for a glossy and voluminous texture. You can check this by rubbing a little bit of the mixture between your fingers to see if you can still feel any sugar grains. If you can, keep mixing a little longer.
WHY THE WHITE VINE VINEGAR?
To help the egg whites retain their volume and to give them the marshmallow texture on the inside, a type of acid is required. The acid also helps stabilize the egg whites as they foam up. This is why a teaspoon of white vinegar is required. However you can also use a teaspoon of lemon juice. A teaspoon of cornflower is also what helps the egg whites with their texture and stability.
THE BAKING PROCESS
Homemade pavlovas bake best at a low temperature for a longer period of time. Do not take any shortcuts during this process, such as throwing in the pavlova at a higher heat. You will either burn your pavlova or create a pavlova that collapses.
The purpose of a slow baking process is to remove the moisture. Be sure to preheat your oven. When the pavlova goes into the oven, avoid opening the oven at any time so that no heat escapes. I find my pavlova bakes best at 120 for an hour. If you have a different oven you may need to bake yours at a slightly different temperature. When the pavlova has finished baking, it is best to turn the oven off and leave the pavlova in there to cool. Drastic temperatures to the pavlova can make it collapse. Do not worry if your pavlova comes out of the oven with a few cracks in the crust – it’s perfectly normal. Your main worry should be to avoid a collapsed pavlova.
Whipped cream is, of course, the classic choice and makes a homemade pavlova delicious. However do not let your imagination stop there. This is why I really love this recipe, you can create anything you envision with the filling and toppings. I personally love the combination of custard and berries. I know this cuts tradition but for my pavlova, I used vanilla bean custard. This is great if you are short for time, or, if like me you love custard. You can make your own home made custard or get a store brought one. Otherwise, stay true to tradition and go for the delicious whipped cream.
The toppings depend on what is in season and available near you. For us, berries are coming out just in time for summer. It is also a childhood memory of mine to use kiwi fruit. With the pavlova, you can use a combination of any fruit which you prefer. You can also go wild and embrace decadence and shave or drizzle some chocolate on top. There is no such thing as too much when it comes to the pavlova.
For the pavlova:
6 egg whites
350 g caster sugar
1 tsp cornflour
1 tsp white vine vinegar
For the toppings:
Whipped Cream or Custard
200 g strawberries
5 kiwi fruits
200 g mixed berries
or any seasonal fruits of your choice
- Preheat the oven to 120˚C / gas oven or 160˚C / fan oven. Line the bottom of a cake tin with baking paper or use a normal baking tray with baking paper on which you can draw a circle as a guide.
- Place 6 egg whites into a clean mixing bowl and whisk with an electric whisk until the egg whites form clouds. Start off mixing at a medium speed.
- When the egg whites start turning into clouds, turn the mixer on maximum speed and gradually start adding the caster sugar a tbsp at a time. You are looking for a stiff and glossy texture.
- Add in the cornflour and white vine vinegar.
- Keep mixing for a little longer, roughly 1 minute and a half.
- To check your consistency, take a bit of the mixture between two finger and look for a stiff and glossy feel. If you feel any grains of sugar you will need to mix a little longer.
- Using a spoon or spatula, empty the meringue onto the baking paper. Form into a circle (it does not have to be perfect). *tip – use the bottom of a cake tin to bake the meringue. It will help shape the pavlova in a nice circle.
- Make a wench in the middle of the meringue for the filling and toppings to sit in.
- Place into the oven and bake for 1 hour to an 1 hour and 15 minutes.
- Turn the oven off and leave the pavlova in the oven overnight to cool.
- To assemble, whip up the cream and spoon into the trench of the meringue. Arrange the fruits of your choice on top as you desire.
I hope that this recipe has given you some helpful tips on making an easy homemade pavlova or that it has brought some inspiration your way! If you do make this recipe feel free to comment your thoughts below. You can also tag me over on Instagram.