No arguments today about whether the pav is Australian or Kiwi but I think I can posit that it’s a quintessentially Australian summer dish, found on tables from Christmas onwards.
Another dessert contribution at our Christmas meal, I liked the idea that it was something I could prep in advance and wouldn’t require huge amounts of oven heat. Mum almost always has egg whites in the freezer (they freeze brilliantly, last for ages and work perfectly once defrosted) so she donated 5 egg whites and instructed that “well, I always use Stephanie’s recipe”.
My idea was to do my usual 1 egg white, 55g of caster sugar mix (that’s thanks to Gordon Ramsay) but mum looked a bit doubtful and went on about Stephanie Alexander (again). Had it not been for Jules writing about meringues and the key to a chewy meringue being corn flour, I might have ignored both mum and Stephanie, but she did, so I duly noted the recipe from The Cook’s Companion.
Stephanie’s recipe uses 4 egg whites and 250g caster sugar, which I think is too much per egg white. So I scaled back and for my 5 egg whites I used 275g of caster sugar. I guess if you like things sweet, use more sugar!
Begin by heating the oven to 180°C (conventional) and draw a 20 cm diameter circle on a piece of baking paper. Get a very very clean bowl (grease of any type is your enemy here – make sure whatever you use is clean and dry) and whisk your egg whites, with a pinch of salt, to soft peaks before slowly adding the caster sugar. Whisk until your meringue mix is stiff and glossy. Naturally, for this part I was using my stand mixer, and I was ably assisted by my toddler (who, I suspect, thought we should have spent all afternoon adding mounds of sugar …).
This is where I’d normally stop and consider job done. However, Stephanie’s recipe calls for sprinkling over ~ 2 tsp corn flour, 1 tsp white wine vinegar and a few drops of vanilla extract. I didn’t bother scaling these small quantities up. You then fold these into the mix (gently, gently – you don’t want to knock out air!) and then mound the meringue onto your reversed baking paper, following your traced outline. Use a few dobs of meringue to hold the baking paper to the tray.
Place in the oven (which is at 180°C) and immediately reduce the heat to 150°C and cook for about 1¼ hours. Then turn the oven off and leave the meringue in until it’s all cool.
When you’re ready to serve, whisk ~ 300mL pure cream and arrange your choice of fruit on top. I used strawberries and halved cherries. I finished with some passionfruit pulp in syrup (I had to buy this last minute in a tin at the supermarket which is actually a really handy way of doing it): this adds some much needed acidity and also gives the pav and fruit a lovely glossy finish.
This served 9 people easily, and there was a little bit left over too. And as pavlova has fruit on it, it’s kind of like health food …