Having trouble with your peaks? Homemade meringues are the perfect base for all sorts of wonderful treats. Learn to master pavlova, and you’ll be able to whip up quick puds at short notice. Here’s our guide to making perfect pavlova.
Pavolva – Keys to Success
The dessert is believed to have come from either New Zealand or Australia following a tour there by Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova and is just perfect for the summer months. It’s heaven-sent for busy entertainers, too: you can Bake the Meringue base a day or two before, and just cover with whipped cream and berries right before serving. Make one large or several small meringue bases, and cover them with any toppings you fancy.
There are a few things you should know before you try our recipe. An hour or two before you start making the pavlova base, take your eggs out of the fridge. Letting them come to room temperature is extremely important: cold eggs don’t whip to such a light, fluffy mass. When you do whip them, watch them carefully: you want them to be only just stiff, not dry.
Caster sugar is most commonly used in pavlova – you’ll need 50g per large egg white – but some people like the caramel undertones given by brown sugar. You could try half and half and see how it goes. As for the eggs, since they have a starring role, it’s important to choose good quality, free range ones. What about the secret ingredients? Adding cornflour stabilises the mixture, and it also provides extra gluten. Activate the gluten with a little vinegar, and you can achieve that marshmallowy chewiness that characterises the best pavlovas.
Recipe – Pavlova
This recipe makes one large or six small meringues.
- Serves 4-6 people. You need:
- 4 large, free-range eggs
- 200g (7oz) caster sugar
- 2tsp cornflour
- 1tsp white wine vinegar
Let the eggs come to room temperature, and prepare your baking sheet before you begin. Draw a 22cm circle on parchment paper, and attach it to the baking sheet, using a smear of butter if it’s not staying in place.
Separate the eggs, putting the whites into a large, clean bowl. (To separate eggs: tap one egg gently on the side of a bowl, then carefully split it, holding half in each hand. Gently tip the yolk from one half to the other, letting the white drop glutinously into the bowl below. Plop the yolk into a jug or cup.)
Using an Electric Whisk or Stand Mixer, whip the eggs until they are standing in ‘soft peaks’ (ie the mixture forms a little peak when you lift out the whisk). (This will take at least 10 minutes to achieve by hand with a whisk, but it’s manageable!)
Tip in 1/3 of the sugar and whisk it in thoroughly. Add the rest in two parts, whisking between additions. Finally stir in the cornflour and vinegar, folding with a metal spoon (be gentle – you don’t want to bash out the air). Dollop the mixture onto the prepared tray and spread it out to fit the circle. The shape won’t spread or change in the oven, so even out the edges and swirl the top attractively.
Bake for an hour – gas mark 1, 275°F (140°C) , then – without opening the door – switch off the oven and leave the meringue inside to cool. Once cool, peel off the paper and put the base onto a presentation plate. Cover with whipped cream (250ml double cream) and then top with any fruit you like: try whole, washed strawberries drizzled with raspberry coulis.
If for some reason your meringue fails to do what you want it to, don’t fear! Get some glasses and serve up Eton mess instead.
Mary says: I have been making my pavlova this way for years. Just a tip – I find that cleaning the glass bowl with lemon juice before whipping the egg whites really cleans the bowl from any unseen grease or oily marks. Hope this will be helpful to some of your readers.