"Pavlova", a famous Australian dessert, is basically a meringue cake with a light, delicate, crisp crust and a soft & sweet marshmallow center that is produced by folding a little vinegar and cornstarch into stiffly beaten egg whites and sugar. This dessert is then served with whipped cream and some fresh fruits. Named after the Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova, this dessert is as beautiful as the ballerina herself. Light and airy, this Meringue Cake is a wonderful way to make use of seasonal or frozen fruits and a bundle of eggs that no baking recipe will be able to utilize! Inspired by a recipe I had seen some time back, and determined to master the meringue-making process, I set forth last weekend to bake this beautiful Mixed Berry Pavlova. It wasn't all child's play, but at the end, I knew I had baked something I could be proud of!
Pavlova is a meringue, and it is important when making any meringue that the egg whites reach maximum volume, so make sure your mixing bowl and whisk are clean and free of grease. Since we need just the whites of the eggs, the eggs will need to be separated. It is easier to do this while the eggs are still cold; I generally use the EggCracker for this and it works pretty well. Once separated, cover the egg whites and let them come to room temperature before using (about 30 minutes).
I have to say that Deb's first-hand instructions about baking the meringue helped me overcome my initial disaster; also, it is definitely advisable to follow the temperature and size suggestions in the recipe, as baking times would vary quite a bit depending on the size of the cakes, making it hard to get the "perfect" texture, which essentially means firm and light on the outside, soft and marshmallowy on the inside!
Adapted from Joy of Baking's Pavlova recipe
4 large egg whites
1/2 tspn salt
1 cup superfine castor sugar
1 tspn white vinegar
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 tbsp cornstarch (or cornflour, or arrowroot powder)
Berries and Whip Cream Topping
1/2 cup strawberry or raspberry sauce
1 cup frozen mixed berries (thawed)
1/4 cup regular Whip Cream
Preheat oven to 250°F (130°C) and place rack in center of oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and draw a 7 inch (18 cm) circle on the paper. (I ust used an icecream bowl to mark the rounds)
Pour the vanilla and vinegar into a small cup. Stir the cornstarch into the sugar in a small bowl.
In a large bowl of a heavy-duty mixer, fitted with whisk attachment, whip egg whites and salt, starting on low, increasing incrementally to medium speed until soft peaks start to become visible, and the egg white bubbles are very small and uniform, approximately 2 to 3 minutes.
Increase speed to medium-high, slowly and gradually sprinkling in the sugar-cornstarch mixture. A few minutes after these dry ingredients are added, slowly pour in the vanilla and vinegar. Increase speed a bit and whip until meringue is glossy, and stiff peaks form when the whisk is lifted, 4 to 5 minutes.
Gently spread the meringue inside the circle drawn on the parchment paper, smoothing the edges, making sure the edges of the meringue are slightly higher than the center. (You want a slight well in the center of the meringue to place the whipped cream and fruit.)
Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes or until the outside is dry and takes on a very pale cream color. Check on meringues at least once during the baking time. If they appear to be taking on color or cracking, reduce temperature 25 degrees, and turn pan around. Turn the oven off, leave the door slightly ajar, and let the meringue cool completely in the oven. (The outside of the meringue will feel firm to the touch, if gently pressed, but as it cools you will get a little cracking and you will see that the inside is soft and marshmallowy.)
Assembling the Pavlova
Just before serving, gently place the meringue-cakes onto a serving plate. Whip the cream in your until soft peaks form. Sweeten with the sugar and vanilla and then mound the softly whipped cream into the center of the meringue. Arrange the thawed mixed berries on the top, then drizzle some raspberry sauce over it. Serve immediately as this dessert does not hold for more than a few hours.
This Mixed Berry Pavlova is a delicious yet light dessert to cater to your sweet tooth. Try with other fruit toppings, or even nuts, but this traditional version definitely works the best! This was a learning experience for me indeed, and if you are a first-timer too, try my Meringue Recipe Tips to make this a bit easier for you!
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