For me personally, “perfect” means that it has to contain some chewy caramel texture in the bottom and the edges of the outer crust and whilst I understand the workings of some of the ingredients, in my attempts with various recipes so far I couldn’t always get them all to play happily with each other when I put them together.
First I made a different recipe that involved pouring boiling water into the beating egg whites…this went contary to every Pavlova recipe I had ever seen before but Yes, after a while the sloppy mess in the mixing bowl puffed up just like it should and after an hour in a low oven it made a lovely tall pavlova with tons of soft marshmellow on the inside…
…but for me it was a definite fail… not a milimetre of chewiness anywhere and no real ‘crust’ on the outside to speak of (ok, there was a tiny bit).
I do know that adding a decent amount of cornflower (cornstarch) to your mix is what gives a pavlova’s outer crust thickness, but it’s also what makes it prone to cracking and collapse because as it cools, the different thicknesses and dryness of the various parts of the pavlova contract at dfferent rates.
This makes cooling your pavlova as slowly as possible essential to keeping it more or less intact. Ideally generations of New Zealand pavlova experts recommend that you should make your pav the night before you want it, bake it in a low oven in the evening before you go to bed and once it’s cooked just turn the oven off and let it cool off overnight. You don’teven disturb it by opening the oven door to take a look!
My problem is that I’m often a spur of the moment pav baker…
…even an hour or two before dinner… so a nice slow cooling period is pretty well shot out of the water.
Oh well… never mind this IS a case of not judging a book by it’s cover becuase I accept that my Pavlova will crack and collapse but at least it taste fabulous!
6 egg whites
(take care that there are absolutely NO flecks of egg yolk in this or the mix won’t beat up to stiff peaks)
1 ½ cups white caster sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 teaspoons cornflower (cornstarch)
Serving suggestion: top with whipped cream, peeled and diced fresh fruit.
Preheat your oven to 180 C (350 F) and line a baking tray with baking parchment. Place the baking rack in the oven just a little lower than centre.
Six separated egg yokes…
(the following photo should just be white castor sugar but when I measured it out the container was almost empty and I didn’t have enough, so I needed to add some icing sugar (powder sugar) to top up the amount I needed. I wouldn’t recommend using icing sugar though!)
Beat the egg whites and add just one Tablespoon of sugar from the 1 ½ cup of caster sugar to it and beat for a minute or two then add a second Tablespoon of sugar and beat, repeating this pattern until all of the sugar has been incorporated into the egg whites. It sound fiddly but adding the sugar slowly like this will improve the texture of your Pavlova by making it lighter and should increase the volume.
Whilst you are adding the caster sugar bit by bit, add in also the cream of tartor, vanilla, vinegar, and cornflower so that you will eventually have bought the egg whites to a stiff peak stage with all of the ingredients combined into them. (My second hand Kitchen Aid is the best bargain I ever got and takes all the hard work out of this for me)
Heap the beaten egg whites onto a baking tray and try and using a metal spoon, smooth it into a round form wthout flattening any of the air out of the mix. It’s important not to “over handle” the mix at this point.
Place the baking tray into the oven and immediately turn the temperature down to 120 C (250 F).
Cook for 45 minutes and then turn the oven off. Don’t open the oven door! just leave it in the oven and let it cool very slowly (prefereably overnight). The photo of it cooked is at the top of the page.
Remove your cold pavlova from the oven, gently spoon whipped cream into the top and top it with fresh fruit (strawberries, raspberries and kiwifruit are traditional) but I also use any soft fresh fruit: pineapple, manderines etc if the summer fruits are not in season.
Don’t despair if you Pav collapses in spite of an overnight/long cool off , it will still taste magnificent and the damage will be covered with whipped cream and fruit anyway!
Prepare for an invasion of instant and ravenous friends if you broadcast that your pavlova is ready !
… and what to do with leftovers? You are joking aren’t you? There never are any!