I have never seen or eaten a pavlova in my entire life but was suddenly inspired to make it for friends over the weekend. For those who don't know, this dessert was named after a famous Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova; however, the debate of whether it originates from Australia or New Zealand seems hotter than the Outback desert in the summer.
My new book by Donna Hay had something to do w/ it, as the meringue recipe looked so easy and the photo of those pristine white cloud puffs beckoned. My photo of the resulting dessert is below, although it's rather dark and hard to really see the meringue platform piled under those other goodies.
One oversight was that I made Ms. Hay's meringue recipe while I later discovered another recipe specifically for pavlova in her book. Duh. The only difference is that there's an extra tsp. of cornstarch in her pavlova recipe and that her pavlova is one large meringue while I made mini ones that feed 1-2 people each.
Here's the meringue recipe that I used:
Makes around 10 mini or 1 large that serves 8-10
4 egg whites (5 fl oz)--I used extra large eggs
1 c. caster (superfine) sugar--I used C&H ultrafine found at Safeway
2 tsp. cornflour (cornstarch)--3 tsp. for pavlova
1 tsp. white vinegar
Preheat oven to 300F. Beat egg whites w/ whisk attachment til soft peaks. Gradually add sugar and beat til glossy and fairly stiff peaks. Fold in cornstarch and vinegar.
Line baking pan w/ non-stick paper (I sprayed w/ canola oil). For mini pavlovas, use 1/3 c. to scoop out batter, leaving enough room btwn. each for expansion. Shape into round w/ an indentation in middle. For large pavlova, make one large round.
Place in oven and reduce to 250F. Bake for 30-35 min. for mini; 1 hour for large. Turn oven off and allow meringue to cool in oven.
Once cool, top w/ faintly sweetened whipped cream and fresh or macerated fruit. I'm not sure if there's a traditional combo of fruits for the original pavlova, but I topped mine w/ raspberries and sliced yellow peaches. It's not traditional to macerate fruit, but I did w/ some sugar and lemon juice. I also added toasted pistachios for some crunch, flavor, and color. Sliced almonds would have melded better, but I didn't have any.
My overall verdict? As my subject line reads, utterly enchanting! This dessert is both delicate and lusty at the same time. It starts out so elegant looking, but once you cut through its layers of juicy ripe fruit, pillowy cream, and sweet, crunchy, chewy meringue, it feels like you're eating an adult sundae. The meringue had a nice caramel undertone and was the perfect foil for the fruit. This now ranks as one of my most romantic desserts and is even more romantic when sharing it w/ your special someone.
Romance aside, I do want to critique the meringue recipe a bit. Mine didn't get as fluffy or remain as pristine white as Ms. Hay's. There was also some cracking, but I didn't care since it would be covered. I think I added the sugar too early, so make sure to get medium peaks before adding sugar. Also think the oven was too warm which caused my meringues to brown a bit. I have a thermometer so I know my oven was at the requisite temp. Next time, I'm going to preheat to 250F and then bake at 200F. Low and slow is the way to go, I think. I will also use an additional tsp. of cornstarch next time.
Any feedback or suggestions for perfecting meringue or pavlova is appreciated!