Fabulous Food Blogs

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Perfect Pavlova

The McFlowers wedding pavlova - beautiful photo with thanks from Robyn
We are huge fans of pavlova here. Its my favourite dessert and from a gal who doesn't really do dessert, its a huge compliment. It was a no brainer for a wedding cake too as its all I'd ever have so during the McFlowers nuptuals a large 'wedding' pavlova was constructed. Raspberry pavlova is my favourite as the fruits tartness compliments the sweet crumbly meringue beautifully. We've a tame chef in the family (who ONE day will start a cooking blog, I know she will) but until then, you'll have to put up with my renditions of most of her fine skills. So when making a pavlova, rather than open a book to recheck the quanities, I often just phone the on-call-chef and check (for the billionth time) the ratio. I have no guilt for this as I'm her 'on-call-or-text-gardener', its a fair swap. For short/non waffly instructions see very bottom of page - otherwise read on McDuff.

Pavlova's are pretty easy to make despite the look of them, they're not super tricky. The key part is the ratio of sugar to egg whites, having a 'grease' free bowl and either an arm so large you can pick up small trees (egg whites require an immense amount of whipping) or you simply open cupboard and retrieve the electric whisk and look smug. A steady and slow oven always helps too. But really this simple dessert is technique and keeping a canny eye. 

Oh, and the secret ingredients. We'll talk about those in a mo, as with all secret ingredients, remember to pass them on when you share the recipe, as no one wants a pavlova without that lovely crumble. And quite frankly its mean to pass on a recipe without the secret ingredient. [Secret ingredients will be annotated below. And, whilst we tell the universe this is Aunty Claire's recipe, I think we also have to give a bit of credit to Mary Berry after all its her pudding book it came from but Aunty C has adapted it a bit.

Aunty C's Pavlova 
6 egg whites [use yolks for custards, etc, don't waste them]
12 oz caster sugar (at a push granulated would do but its not as good.)
1tsp vinegar [Secret ingredient]
1tsp cornflour [Secret ingredient]

Find a decent sized bowl - one that fits on your head is best - that's around the right size. I usually give it a quick clean and dry and rub with lemon juice/vinegar and rinse/dry again. Egg whites don't like any form of fat/grease residue its stops them fluffing up. So whilst you're probably not a clart, if unsure about any residues (even if only visible via an electron microscope) give it a wee clean with one of those to be safe.

Separate eggs carefully -- any yolk in the mix will also make your pav a dud. So I separate them one by one into a cup each time then if they're yolk free I add them to the clean and grease free big bowl. Eggs in this house are never kept in the fridge. Eggs for meringues need to be at room temperature, so if you keep eggs in the fridge take them out a good few hours before to increase their friendliness for whipping.

Weigh out sugar, castor is best but if you're struggling with a demented amount of granulated sugar in the house you can use it, but it won't be quite as fine.

Using an electric whisk (or your best arm if you have the muscles of hercules) whip egg whites until they form soft peaks where the whisk when dragged up leaves, erm, well 'soft peaks'. Once you've got this texture - you can start adding sugar and there's an excellent video from Mary Berry here to show you the stages before and after you add the sugar - one tablespoon at a time and whip a bit in between - the texture changes to a more marshmallowy nature and a 'stiffer' peak. This tastes very good but unless you're sure you've definitely got salmonella free eggs best not eat them raw. Just saying, no deaths on my grub blog thank you. Be SURE you have stiff peaks - before you amaze you and your friends with the 'upside down bowl of egg white trick'. Don't attempt to turn the bowl upside down if the peaks are formed or if its still moving around in the bowl at the sides. This will only end in disaster

So you've got soft marshmallowy peaks, time to mix and add the secret ingredients. Vinegar and cornflour (cornstarch if you're American) added to the mix at this point make it crumbly when baked letting the soft meringue in the centre be hidden by a crunchy, soft, crumbly outer. Believe me it works any vinegar will do although malt (the kind you use for chips) does give it an appealing 'golden texture' (as does golden caster sugar if you want to go that far).

Some folks at this point add vanilla - I don't I think it sullies the mix and quite frankly it tastes so good why bother. But, that's your call.

The mix is spread on a baking sheet, generally covered with a layer of parchment otherwise (in some cases) the pavlova can stick to the tray and whilst its not the end of the world - its a fragile beast once baked so ripping it forceably from a tray whilst it won't harm the taste, it will potentially turn your pavlova into something resembling an earthquaked snowy pudding or at the worst - Eton mess, which is yummy but lets face facts we want to wow folk with our pavlova's beauty not mix it up like baby food. You've been warned. 

Baked for roughly one hour at 150oC (Mary says 1 hour 15 mins, Claire says an hour - as I don't have to deal with Mary on a daily basis, I stick to Aunty C's timings. One chef in the family is quite enough :) Leave to cool, I open the door of the oven and leave it to cool down by itself before attempting to wrestle it from a tray.

Once cool, whip up cream (around 12 oz) and find the fruit of your choice to top it, whatever ini season works, and if your home grown raspberries are groaning with fruit, all the better to get out a whisk and make one. We (personally) don't add sugar or vanilla to the whipped cream, as the meringue is sweet enough but some do, its down to choice. We do grow our own raspberries just to make this pudding, its that good.

Serve and amaze your friends and family. 

Its common practice in these parts to rehearse particular grub before amazing said friends and family. The manchild made his first pavlova earlier this year (age 19 so you know you can do one too), having practiced one before he made the real one for a gathering of his chums. Whilst a bit of a rehearsal may seem a bit unnecessary, cooking is largely a technique exercise so trying something new out beforehand is quite worth while. He found he'd got the technique and being 400 miles away he managed this with only phone/skype and text support. It turned out well. So well in so that he doubled the mix and made a two layer one for his 'event' with his chums, transported it up to Glasgow in a box (deconstructed without the fruit and cream) and put it together up there. Clever boy had learnt his cream to pavlova ratio wasn't quite as he wanted so he put more cream and fruit on his gigantic pavlova the second time.

And to be honest - two pavlova's in succession, is far better than one don't you think?

Until next time - happy scoffing of the best pudding on earth.

And don't forget to share the secret ingredients, after all someone's been kind enough to share the WHOLE recipe with you, its only good cooking karma to pass those on, they deserve a crunchy pavlova too.

Non waffle recipe.

Aunty C's Pavlova 
6 egg whites [use yolks for custards, etc, don't waste them]
12 oz caster sugar (at a push granulated would do but its not as good.)
1tsp vinegar [Secret ingredient]
1tsp cornflour [Secret ingredient]

150oC oven
Baking tray lined with greaseproof paper.

Whip egg whites until soft peaks form
Add sugar once tablespoon at time whipping whilst doing so
Mixture should resemble marshmallow fluff
Mix 1tsp cornflour with same of vinegar, add to mix
Spoon/tip mix onto a tray covered in greaseproof paper
Create circular form to suit
Bake for 1 hour in cool oven
Switch off oven and allow to cool in oven with door open or put on a rack
Whip cream to taste, fill meringue case cover with fruit just before serving.


1 comment:

  1. Now look, I've got an hour until I eat my lunch, and now I don't WANT a ham salad sandwich and an apple, I want a SODDING PAVLOVA!!! ;-) Clever manchild too - although he's a quick study I reckon, but the basics of a reliable recipe always help!


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