Monday, January 16, 2012

Perfect Pavlova

Seeing as pav is a New Zealand icon, I absolutely had to make a successful pavlova before I left. With only one week to go, I finally managed it. Third time's lucky, after all. It turned out that I had not been using enough sugar, so after advice from I friend I went back to the recipe that I always used to use. I know that it seems silly to have tried to change it, but I was trying to combat my problem of sugar syrup leaking from the pav. I thought this was because there was too much sugar but apparently it happens when you don't beat the mixture for long enough and the sugar does not fully dissolve. However, this time around I beat the egg whites and sugar together for 20 minutes and it still wasn't smooth! Perhaps my caster sugar was not fine enough. So I settled for a leaky pav and just continued with the rest of the ingredients. I had no baking paper and at the best of times it is difficult to transfer a pav from tray to plate (at least, it is when you are clumsy like me), so I decided to just bake the pav directly on the plate that I would serve it on. It worked! The plate did not break, the pav only leaked a little, the outside was perfectly crispy and the inside soft and marshmallow-like. So following are my instructions and I hope that your pav works out well! If it doesn't, that's OK too, by the time you have covered it in cream and strawberries nobody will know any better!

4 egg whites
A pinch of cream of tartar
1 and 1/2 cups fine caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 teaspoon malt vinegar
3 teaspoons cornflour

To begin, you need to turn the oven on to 150 degrees celsius and prepare a tray. Non-stick baking paper is the best thing to use, and I read somewhere that you should have two layers of paper beneath the pav so that the bottom does not burn. Now, I should have said this first but keep in mind that it takes about 3 to 4 hours to make a pav.

Then you need to get out one big glass bowl and two small bowls. The large bowl is for beating the eggwhites and it must be glass, ceramic or metal. You cannot use plastic here but plastic bowls retain traces of fat, which will prevent your egg whites from getting thick and stiff. The other two bowls are for separating the eggs. You do not want to separate the eggs directly into the large bowl, just in case you break the yolk and ruin the whole lot. So, break the egg, tip the white into one bowl and the yolk into the other. Than tip the white from the small bowl to the large bowl. And repeat!

When you have all of the egg whites in the large bowl, add the cream of tartar and beat with an electric beater (or use a cake-mixer if you had one, it would be so much easier!). The egg whites will become thick and foamy. At this point you can begin to add the sugar, but only add one tablespoon at a time. This step will take a long time, you should take about 15 minutes. The aim is for all of the sugar to dissolve, so that when you rub some of the mixture between your finger and thumb it does not feel grainy. I always struggle to get to this point but I think a cake-mixer would help. However, mine was somewhat grainy (you could even see the sugar grains) and it still worked, so don't stress too much.

Finally, add the vanilla essence, vinegar and cornflour and beat the mixture until it is all combined. As I was making this yesterday I wondered about the vinegar, and what it is for, and thought perhaps you could use lemon juice instead? Next time I will try it and see how it turns out. If you forgot to add all of these extra ingredients it would probably be OK, because a friend of mine did that once and the pav still seemed just like a normal pav. But anyway, back to the point, once you have mixed in these final ingredients you can tip the mixture onto the prepared tray, in a circular mound.

Smooth out the top of the pav somewhat and then place the tray in the oven. Now, the trick to a pav is to bake it at a low heat, slowly. So to begin with the temperature is 150 degrees, to harden the outside. After 10 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 100 degrees and let it bake for another 10 minutes. Finally, reduce the temperature a third time, to 50 degrees celsius, and let it bake for about half an hour more. Then, switch the oven off and leave the pav in for a couple of hours to cool slowly, because if it cools quickly the crust will crack and the centre might sink.

See my beautiful pavlova! It is crispy, it is not cracked, it did not sink in the middle! That's the first time I have ever made a pav that didn't sink in the middle. I was so proud of it. I served it with lemon cream, because again with the egg yolks I made lemon curd. I beat the cream until it was stiff, then folded in spoonfuls of lemon curd until the cream was quite lemony. I would usually decorate a pav with strawberries and a Cadbury's Flake, but I had neither so I just used chocolate sprinkles.


  1. hi..
    what would happen if i forget to put vinegar in palova?

    1. Well I'm probably responding to this too late to be of any help, but if anybody else was wondering, your pavlova will probably turn out just fine. I know somebody who once forgot the vinegar, cornflour and vanilla - it was just egg and sugar. And it was still a pavlova. There are various theories as to what the vinegar does, and I don't really know which is true, but so long as you use the right amount of sugar, beat it long enough and cook it at the right temperature you will have a pavlova.


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