Pavlova is not an overly common dessert here in Canada. I discovered it by way of the glorious Nigella Lawson and her show ‘Nigella Bites’. That show was a revelation to me and I will be forever grateful that Food Network Canada used to actually have cooking shows on their station. Now it is cupcake battles, and Top Chef Thunderdome Extreme Cook-off, reality-show crap. I live in hope that the American station, Cooking Channel will eventually make its way up here.
I make this dessert quite frequently since it is naturally gluten-free and definitely little boy approved. I almost always make this with frozen egg whites (thawed, of course). I make my own ice cream and I use a thin custard as the base which requires two egg yolks, so rather than let the whites go to waste, I put them in a freezer bag, mark on it the date and how many egg whites with a Sharpie and pop it in the freezer door. I also have extra egg whites when I make my Carbonara recipe. When I was cleaning out the freezer to make room for the massive amount of beef we ordered from Vibrant Farms I discovered little egg white baggies dating back over a year to present. I kept about 5 just in case I have a Pavlova related emergency in the near future. Have I ever mentioned that I am a food hoarder before? I am only restrained by my opposing desire to be neat and tidy. It is probably a good idea to open my freezer wearing steel-toed boots though.
Tips for a stress-free Pavlova
- You can scale up Pavlova’s simply by remembering that for every large egg white, you need roughly 1/4 cup granulated sugar. You can scale the recipe down slightly using the same principle.
- Make sure your bowl and whisk from an electric mixer or stand mixer are very clean. Also make sure there is no egg yolk in your egg white. Any hint of fat in the egg whites and they will not hold the air when whipped. There is crazy science behind this so just trust me and wash your equipment well.
- Do not use a plastic bowl – glass or metal (stainless steel or copper) only.
- You can add a pinch of cream of tartar but it is not necessary.
- You can make a successful Pavlova with less sugar; I have done it many times. I have reduced the sugar by as much as 1/4 cup. The result will be less volume but you will hardly notice it.
- I have made Pavlova many times with pasteurized egg whites that come in a carton. I don’t buy that anymore because it weirds me out a little but if that is something that you keep in your fridge, then by all means, use it. Just follow the package directions for how much egg white to measure 1 large egg white. I love licking the whisk and spatula when it is done and if you are scared of eating raw egg whites and desperately want to lick the bowl, then use the pasteurized egg whites.
- You can thaw egg whites very quickly by putting the freezer bag with the egg whites in a bowl with slightly cool water. Make sure there is very little heat in the water or you will cook the egg whites. Think room temperature water. If you want it to go really quickly, then keep changing out the water that gets chilled by the thawing egg whites.
- Pavlova goes very well with frozen fruit. When the fruit thaws, the juices that are released are very nice drizzled over top
- I have served this with canned peaches. I wouldn’t serve canned peaches to company but if it is a dessert for a family meal then it is actually quite nice. Dessert needn’t always be a production.
- Use almost any soft fruit as a topping. Get creative and use what your family likes. I think passion fruit might be traditional on the other side of the world but we don’t see much of that over here. I will stick with things like peaches, strawberries and raspberries.
- Rhubarb is quite nice with pavlova as well. Make a quick compote with: 1 1/2 cups chopped rhubarb, a squeeze of lemon juice, a splash of vanilla (1 tsp) or the seeds from half a vanilla bean, 1/4 cup sugar or more to taste. Cook the rhubarb in a pot over medium heat with the sugar, etc. until it is very very soft. Stir frequently. Mix in some strawberries to it as well if you like the strawberry-rhubarb combination. Taste it to see if it is too tart. If it is, add a little more sugar or honey. Allow it to cool slightly and serve over the pavlova with whipped cream.
- If you don’t want to peel the peaches (it is a pain in the ass), then cut the peaches into bite size pieces. I would not serve them in long slices because with the skin still on, it is difficult to cut an unpeeled peach slice with the side of a fork or spoon.
- Most recipes say to fold the vanilla, corn starch and vinegar into the egg whites. I kind of cheat and use the stand-mixer on slow. When I stop mixing, I take the bowl off the mixer and then the whisk attachment and use the whisk attachment to give the pavlova one last stir. Unless Gordon Ramsey is in your kitchen swearing at you about this unconventional technique, no one will notice that you didn’t fold the other ingredients in.
|Pavlova with Peaches made simple|
- 4 large egg whites, room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tbsp corn starch
- 1 tsp white vinegar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup whipping cream, whipped to soft peaks
- 3 medium ripe peaches, *peeled and sliced
- Place a piece of parchment paper or wax paper on a cookie sheet. The paper should be large enough to cover the cookie sheet.
- Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.
- In a very clean stainless steel or glass bowl (NOT PLASTIC), add you egg whites and begin beating them with an electric mixer.
- When they are very light and fluffy and look a little like cotton batting, slowly add the sugar while still beating the egg whites. Stop adding sugar every once in a while to check to make sure that what you have added has been incorporated.
- Keep beating the egg whites and sugar until you have stiff, glossy peaks. To test this, lift the mixer out of the bowl slowly and if the peak that forms stays standing up, it is ready for the next step.
- Add the corn starch and mix it in very slowly or fold it in with a spatula. If you are using a stand mixer then the lowest speed will mix it slowly enough. If you are using a hand mixer then I suggest using a spatula and the folding technique.
- Then add the vinegar and vanilla extract and slowly stir with the whisk attachment of you mixer or fold in with a spatula.
- When the vanilla, corn starch and vinegar are fully mixed with the meringue (sugar and egg whites), gently pour the mixture onto the cookie sheet and form it into a circle with a spatula. Approximately 9-10 inches in diameter and about 2 inches high.
- Bake for 50-55 minutes or until if you take the pavlova out (briefly) and peel it off the paper and tap the bottom it sounds hollow. Test at 50 minutes. It will likely be done.
- Take the pan out of the oven and allow the pavlova to cool on the pan.
- To serve either put the whole pavlova on a serving plate, put all the whipped cream on top and the sliced peaches. Cut and serve it like a cake. Alternately (my preference), cut a wedge of the pavlova and put it on a plate, put a big dollop of whipped cream on top and scatter some peaches on the whipped cream. Do this for each individual.
*To peel peaches: cut an ‘X’ in the bottom of the peach (opposite to the stem side). Put them in a pot with boiling water for about 10-15 seconds. Remove them and place them in a bowl with ice water for a minute. The skin should come off easily now.