Monday, 13 June 2011

Tropical Summer Pavlova with a secret ingredient

Pavlova has got to be one of my absolute favourite summer desserts. Meringue that's crunchy on the outside, but soft and gooey on the inside, with whipped cream and mountains of beautiful fruit. One of the great things about pavlova is that you can adapt it according to whatever fruit is in season - apple and blackberry in the autumn; strawberries, raspberries and blueberries in the summer (the latter is perfect for any 4th July celebration!)

At the end of April one of my very good friends had a pre-exams / end of Easter holidays BBQ, so I of course jumped at the chance to provide dessert. This is not just any old pavlova, this was possibly one of the best ones I have ever made.

Doesn't she look beautiful?

Without boasting too much, my friends have said that I do make perfect meringues, 'the best ever' according to one. Hopefully now you can too!
Here's my recipe:


5 egg whites
8 oz golden caster sugar
2 oz light brown sugar
1tsp cream of tartar

Generally speaking, a good ratio of egg white to sugar is 2 oz of sugar per egg white. Substituting a little brown sugar for the white gives the meringue an extra, slightly caramely depth of flavour.

Preheat the oven to 150C/300F
Line a large baking tray with a piece of baking parchment. I always find it helpful to draw around a large plate to get a good circle template to shape my pavlova.

Beat the egg whites at quite a high speed until they form soft peaks. Tilt and move the bowl around if it helps.
Then beat in the cream of tartar (this will make the egg whites nice and shiny and more likely to hold their shape)
Slowly add the sugar, beating continuously until you have stiff peaks. 

Note: It's crucial that you add the sugar to the side of the bowl as you beat it in - you don't want to knock all of that lovely air out of the egg whites.
Also make sure that your bowl and beaters are free of any water as even the tiniest drop can stop your egg whites from frothing up the way you want them to.

Turn your meringue mixture out onto the baking parchment. So that I don't have to spread it too much I tend to dollop big spoonfuls around the edge of the circle, then dump the rest in the centre and smooth it out slightly so that the edge are higher than the centre and you get a kind of giant meringue nest. (I hope that makes sense, I'll post a picture the next time I make a pavlova).

Bake in the middle of the oven for a good two hours. The first attempt at making this pavlova was a disaster. I was convinced it was done after one hour as the top had already gone all crispy and, as I didn't want it to burn, I took it out of the oven. As soon as I tried to transfer it to the cooling rack it fell apart completely and turned into a sticky mess, sadly not even fit to make Eton Mess. 

Once your pavlova has completely cooled, you can make a start on the topping. My dad regularly helps out with cooking for local party functions, and learnt from one of the other women who helps out too that the most delicious pavlova filling uses part double cream, part Greek yoghurt. Now, I'm not a huge fan of whipped cream, so this addition sorta made me jump for joy. The yoghurt makes it slightly healthier too, a winner all round then! 

For the topping:

500ml double cream (I believe Americans call this heavy cream?)
300ml Greek yoghurt

Whip up your double cream until it has thickened to form soft peaks, then gently fold in the Greek yoghurt. Slather over the top of your pavlova.

You can alter the ratios of cream to yoghurt according to your taste, there's no strict rules.

 Now you can start adding fruit!

The pavlova above has
1 large mango (if in season a few Alphonso mangos would be just divine)
4 passion fruit
Pomegranate seeds
Zest and juice of one lime
A few sprigs of mint

Cube up the mango any which way you desire and pile high on pavlova and cream/yoghurt base. Scrape out the passion fruit and drizzle around the outside of the mango (hopefully you can see how I did it in the picture). Sprinkle pomegranate seeds over the top, then lime zest. Squeeze over the juice of a lime for an extra kick, then top with a few sprigs of mint.

And voila, you should have the most beautiful summer pavlova. This certainly wowed all my friends, and after a moment of 'but it looks too pretty to eat!' they all dove in with relish. We got about 12 servings out of this one, but some of the end ones were pretty mean. 


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