Making the perfect Pavlova is easy if you know a few essential tips and tricks. Read my ‘pavlova how to’ for perfect results every time!
The perfect Pavlova should be snowy white, crisp on the outside and slightly marshmallowy on the inside. Getting it right every time is easy if you follow a few basic guidelines and there’s also trouble shooting tips based on personal pavlova flops!
Pavlova was created for – and named after – the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova while she was touring New Zealand in 1926. Both Australia and New Zealand have laid claim to the recipe but I will let them fight it out among themselves! What is unquestionable is that the dessert is still enormously popular in both countries and around the world.
Pavlova is made from egg whites and sugar and has a unique squidgy texture thanks to the addition of vinegar (or cream of tartar) and a little cornflour. The egg whites are whipped until firm and then the sugar is gradually added until the meringue is glossy and so thick you could hold the bowl over your head without fearing it would fall out. Not that I advise you to do that last part!
The meringue can be spread with a spoon on a tray lined with greaseproof paper or piped as I have done. Or how about making a festive wreath? It is then cooked for a long time – usually over an hour – on a low temperature which dries it out until it becomes crisp on the outside while retaining some moisture within. It is very important to let the pavlova cool gradually inside the turned-off oven once baked – this helps it stay crisp and avoids cracks.
Once your pavlova is baked and cooled it can be filled – usually with freshly whipped sweetened cream and fresh berries which undercut some of the sweetness. Once filled it should be eaten fairly quickly as the moisture of the cream will eventually seep into the base. The unfilled pavlova bases can be kept for several days once baked however – a good standby for last minute dessert.
My meringue won’t whip! This is an easy one to avoid – first of all you have to make sure that no egg yolk has gotten into your egg whites otherwise they won’t froth up no matter how hard you try. Secondly you have to make sure the mixing bowl and beaters are spotlessly clean and free of any grease. For that reason it is best to use a metal or glass bowl as plastic can hold on to grease. I sometimes wipe the bowl with a little lemon juice to make sure it is pavlova-ready!
My pavlova is weeping! Don’t dissolve into tears yourself – just make sure the sugar is completely dissolved before baking. Feel the meringue between your fingers – if it is gritty then you need to keep whisking. Another thing to watch out is over whipping the eggs – I like to start adding the sugar once the reach firm peak stage but before they go lumpy and too stiff.
My pavlova is completely flat! The culprit is usually a too-hot oven if you have followed the recipe to the letter. I avoid using the fan when baking pavlova and I keep an eye on it to see if it colouring too much. Your lovely oven might have a hot spot that’s means the heat is not distributed evenly. I usually preheat the oven to 150C (300F) but reduce the heat to 130C (270F) once the pavlova goes in. The cooking time is 1h 20m which is quite long but works for me. You might need to experiment to see what temperature works best for you and your oven. If in doubt, cook at a slightly lower temperature for a little longer.
Can you make vegan pavlova? Yes you can! Replace the egg whites with equal amount aquafaba (the liquid drained from a can of chickpeas) and follow the recipe in the same way. However you will need to bake at a lower temperature 120C /250F (or as low as 110C/230F).
- 6 egg whites (150g | 5.3oz)
- 300g | 10½ oz caster sugar
- ½ tbsp cornflour (cornstarch)
- ½ tsp cream of tartar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 600g | 1.3 lbs double cream
- 100g | 3½ oz icing sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract or paste
- 100g | 3½ oz lemon or passionfruit curd
- fresh berries and edible flowers to decorate
- icing sugar to dust
- Separate your egg whites and put in a bowl. Leave overnight at room temperature to age.
- Preheat the oven to 150C (300F). Trace two 15cm/6in circles on greaseproof paper and use it to line a larhe baking tray.
- Put the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of your stand mixer. Mix together with a fork or ballon whisk. Start whisking on low speed until they start to become frothy.
- Increase the speed to maximum and whisk until the egg whites form firm peaks.
- Start adding the sugar, one tablesppon at a time, while whisking at maximum speed. Add the cornflour and vanilla with the last tablespoon of sugar.
- Continue to whisk after it has all been added and check the meringue between your fingers. If it feels gritty, then continue to whisk until the sugar is fully dissolved and the meringue is stiff and glossy.
- Transfer half the meringue into a large piping back fitted with an extra large star tip. Use a little meringue to secrue the greaseproof paper to the baking tray.
- Pipe a circle for the base using your tracing to guide you. Pipe large rosettes over the cirble to form a 'crown'. You can use a pallete knife to smooth the sides or leave them as they are. Repeat with the rest of the meringue to pipe the second crown.
- Transfer to the oven and reduce the temperature to 130C (260F) or as low as 120C (250F) if your oven tends to run hot.
- Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes then check the crowns. They should be crisp on the outside with a hint of squidginess in the middle.
- Turn the oven off and leave them inside to cool gradually. Remove from the oven once completely cool and either fill or keep to use at a later date.
- If filling both crowns, then whisk the cream, icing sugar and vanilla extract until you have firm peaks (softly whipped is also good). If you are only fiiling one then halve the filling quantities.
- Ripple the lemon curd into the whipped cream and fill the pavlovas.
- Pile a handful of fresh berries over the top and serve with a dusting of icing sugar. Decorate with edible flowers (I used borgage flowers).
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