This was our Christmas Eve dessert this year (unusual for me to make dessert actually because it’s my birthday and I normally celebrate by eating out).
A Pavlova always looks festive and special and belies the amount of time required on preparation. You just need to make sure the meringue mixture is the right consistency before it cooks – stiff enough so that it stays in the bowl when you invert it but also not too dry – you want a nice satiny sheen.
I guess it’s not very seasonal in the northern hemisphere (although many of the cookery programmes I’ve been glued to recently have featured Christmas Pavlovas) and I’ve seen some amazing looking Pavlova wreaths on Instagram. I felt a bit guilty buying out of season fruit (flown in from a distance, not very ecological) but the truth is I don’t really like Christmassy sweet treats like mince pies and Christmas pudding and this was my birthday treat. I wanted something I liked and wouldn’t be too time consuming – I was also making the salmon en croute. Next time I will try something a bit more seasonal for the topping like caramelised clementines perhaps.
There’s a long running dispute about whether Pavlova was invented in New Zealand or Australia (although the Oxford English Dictionary has ruled that it was New Zealand). The dessert takes its name from the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova who visited both countries in the 1920s.
This version is based on a Mary Berry recipe, although I’ve used blueberries as well as strawberries for the topping. My Pavlovas always come out a bit too beige for my liking – I need to turn the oven down a bit more I think – my oven is a bit temperamental and often seems too hot. But once the cream and fruit were piled up it didn’t really matter – it looked great and tasted delicious and I enjoyed the simple thrill of taking it out of the fridge and placing it on the table with a flourish – ta dah!
- 4 large egg whites
- 225g caster sugar
- 2 level teaspoons cornflour
- 2 teaspoon white wine vinegar (I used cider vinegar)
- 300 ml whipping or double cream
- Fruit topping – I used strawberries and blueberries
- Preheat the oven to 160°C/Fan 140°C/gas 3. Lay a sheet of non-stick baking parchment on a baking sheet and mark a 23cm (9in) circle on it. I drew around one of my cake tins.
- Put the egg whites into a large bowl and whisk until stiff and cloud-like. Add the sugar a teaspoonful at a time, whisking well after each addition, until all the sugar has been added. Blend the cornflour and vinegar together and whisk into the meringue mixture. Spread the meringue out to cover the circle on the non-stick baking parchment, building up the sides so they are higher than the middle.
- Place in the oven but immediately reduce the temperature to 150°C/300°F/gas 2.
- Bake for about one hour until firm to the touch and a pale beige colour. Turn the oven off and allow the Pavlova to become quite cold while still in the oven. If you keep the oven door closed you will encourage a more marshmallowy meringue.
- Remove the cold Pavlova from the baking sheet and parchment and slide onto a serving plate. Top with the whipped cream and fruit of your choice, then chill in the fridge for one hour before serving.