Pavlova

I have been rather terrified of making pavlova. It’s a big one for people from New Zealand and Australia. The debate still rages on as to which of these two countries developed the recipe first (I will leave this link here to shake things up and say neither). However, it’s a traditional dish in both countries and my mum makes one every year for Christmas. So this dessert is personal.

My first and only attempt at a pavlova before now resulted in a flat crunchy pancake. It was so bad I had to bake it in a cake tin. This is very much not the appropriate way to cook a pavlova. I had this experience alone, when I was 16, overseas. It was traumatising.

Unfortunately, last week we had a friend request a pavlova for Thanksgiving. Lacking the ability to say no, I frantically went about preparing my second pavlova. At least this time I J—- to support me through the event. Though his support was sounded more like lists/reiterations of everything that could go wrong.

In preparation, I emailed my mum and got the following recipe in return:

Beat 4 egg whites until stiff
Slowly beat in 8 ounces of caster sugar (I usually add it a tablespoon at a time over about 20 minutes)
Then add
1 tablespoon cornflour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 dessert spoon of vinegar
1 tablespoon cold water
Grease tray. Mound it quite high
Cook at 150 (depends a bit on the oven) for 15 minutes. Turn oven off and leave in oven until cold

I don’t know where this recipe is from. I’d like to say it was a special family recipe passed down through the generations to land in my hands in my moment of need. But it is also just as likely that the recipe came from the very ubiquitous Edmonds Cookery book (a classic cookbook in NZ). Nevertheless, armed with this recipe, I ventured forth.

Beating the eggs would normally be done in a mixer, but currently, we are a little too cheap to own a KitchenAid Mixer, an electric beater, or even a hand beater. In fact, all we have is a whisk. As much as I would have loved to make J—- stand there and whisk for 2 hours, we scouted amongst our friends and managed to grab a handheld electric beater. It worked – though I was not able to leave the beater alone to do its thing and I had to have all the necessary ingredients within arm’s reach.

The eggs are meant to be large. While we bought ‘large’ eggs, when we opened the container they weren’t that big. So I added an extra egg white just in case. I beat the eggs so that they formed peaks and slowly added the caster sugar. I tell you, finding caster sugar was a mission. Four supermarkets later, we finally figured out that caster sugar is called superfine sugar in North America.

Following the caster sugar, I slowly added all the other ingredients while still beating. Once the mix is done it looks beautiful. It turns into a silky slodge. Really, it looks better than the end result and all I really want to do is pour large spoonfuls of this glorious stuff directly into my mouth.

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The beautiful, silky slodge or pre-cooked pavlova mixture

Resisting this urge, I used a spatula to move the mix onto a tray and shape it into a mound. I cooked and left the pav in the oven, for what seems an age, until it had cooled. Just a note when the recipe says 150 above, it means 150 degrees celsius (for those who were a little disconcerted by the low temperature – though to be fair this is still pretty low in celsius). Once removed from the oven you can truly see how well your pav has done.

Now for a few notes on how not to muck up the recipe:

  • Make sure your mixing bowl is absolutely clean.
  • Use older eggs.
  • Eggs should be room temperature.
  • Do not get any egg yolk in the egg white when separating eggs (I lost an egg to a cracking mishap, it was a sad day for all).
  • Don’t over-beat the eggs before adding everything else.
  • Don’t under-beat the eggs and caster sugar. It is necessary to beat it long enough for the sugar to dissolve (or you will have leaking – yes leaking – pavlova. This is not pretty).
  • BUT don’t over mix once all the caster sugar has been added.
  • One website even says that you shouldn’t make this recipe on a low humidity/dry days.

These pointers are meant to freak you out, just a little. J—- and I LOLed on the last note. We live in Newfoundland. One of the wettest places on earth. Perhaps a slight exaggeration, but it rains here… a lot. Indeed it has rained every day this week. So much for making the pavlova on a dry day.

I did screw up somewhere as my pavlova had a bit of a crack/crevice across the top of it. But the key with a pav, is that it is meant to be covered in cream. You can hide all manner of sins with a large dousing of cream. Except for leaking – the leaking is hard to cover. So at this point, I’m pretty proud of myself. It looks like an above average pav. Getting a bit cocky really. Though there is still a chance there will be leaking (My god, please don’t let there be leaking).

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CRACK. Well, it’s not so bad. Cream will come to the rescue.

—————————-

References

Edmonds Cookery Book (69th Ed.). New Zealand: Bluebird Foods Ltd

How to Make Perfect Pavlova and Meringues [Online]. Available at http://www.foodlovers.co.nz/features/how-to-make-perfect-pavlova-and-meringues.html [Accessed 23/11/2016]

Beck, E. (2015). Pavlova Research Reveals Puddings Shock Origins. Stuff [Online]. Available at http://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/food-wine/72742788/pavlova-research-reveals-puddings-shock-origins [Accessed 23/11/2016]

Complete Guide to Pavlova [Online]. Available at http://www.taste.com.au/how+to/cooking+tips/articles/2363/complete+guide+to+pavlova [Accessed 23/11/2016]

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