I actually didn’t know what Pavlova was until I heard some friends raving about it. That peaked my curiosity, and of course, then I wanted to make it. The is the first Pavlova I’ve ever made on my own, so… Well, it’s not perfect! Hehe, there are some mistakes, but I’ll share what I learned from this experience so that if you ever want to make pavlova, you can avoid them.
This dessert was named for the Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova, who was famous for being “Light as a cloud” on her feet while she danced, and so the name is appropriate for this sweet, light-as-a-cloud dessert. It is made with a crisp, sweet meringue crust, and then filled with freshly whipped cream and fresh fruit. I have also seen Pavlova recipes call for a berry sauce to spoon over each serving, but for this particular attempt, I did not make it that way.
Here are my notes!
To start, I used wax paper. There’s my first mistake! If you read my last post, you would’ve read a little about the difference between wax paper and parchment paper. Since, for most things, wax paper is a fine substitute for parchment, I chose to use it for this project. Annnd… well, don’t ever do that. Meringue can not have any grease in it, so it needs to sit on a non-stick surface… but meringue sticks like crazy to wax paper, I have learned. So next time I plan to use parchment; a silicone baking mat would probably work, but since I wouldn’t be able to draw my perfect circle on that, parchment it will be.
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First step in making the Pavlova is making the meringue. To make a perfectly round shape, cut a piece of parchment paper out to be about the length of whatever cookie sheet you’re using (you’ll want it to be at least 11×15″, or at least big enough to fit the whole circle outline). Draw the outline of a 9″ cake pan onto the surface of your paper, and turn this, pencil side down, onto a baking sheet and set it aside.
Next, make the meringue. Careful not to get any egg yolks in with the whites– the fat content in the yolks will prevent the whites from stiffening properly. If you accidentally get a bit of yolk in there, see if you can carefully spoon it out of the whites without mixing it in at all. I’ve done this before, and you can usually save it. 🙂
(Note: Obviously, I’m not posting this recipe today– this is mostly just for tips and tricks. You can probably easily find a good meringue recipe for Pavlova online, or in a good baking book. Then you can either use this method for the filling, or follow whatever recipe you’re using. If I get enough requests for the recipe, I’ll post it another time. Just a tip though, my recipe uses 5 egg whites for the meringue– and that amount was perfect to make this size meringue.)
The egg yolks are not needed in this recipe; though, I was tempted to make a custard to go into the base of it. In the spirit of following the recipe, however, I did not. Yolks can be refrigerated and used in making custard or pudding, lemon curd, or if you like to make bread, you can just add them with your liquid ingredients of the bread (before adding flour) to keep them from going to waste. They will change the outcome of your bread a little, obviously, but I personally think the flavor is great, and it keeps them from going bad. I hate to waste perfectly good food. If I do that, I just add them to a basic bread recipe.
Beat the whites with sugar until stiff, but not dry, peaks form.
Next, fill a piping bag (fitted with a large star tip) with meringue. Pipe along the pencil outline on your parchment paper. I’ve done a couple rows of shells here.
Next, fill in in the center of the circle. I just spread it around with an angled spatula, filling in all the gaps, and making a nice meringue disk.
Then you bake it just till it starts to turn a nice pale gold color.
Now. Why was the wax paper such a bad move? Trying to get that beautiful meringue off it of it was hard work… and it cracked (*sob*). Thankfully, modern food photography takes advantage of these kinds of imperfections, so we’ll pretend I did it on purpose and enjoy the rustic beauty of the pictures below. 😛
For the cream, I decided to *very* lightly sweeten it, almost not at all. I just took a bit of icing sugar on the tip of a teaspoon and beat that in. Knowing that the meringue and fruit would be sweet, I wanted that contrast. I’m glad I did; it was delicious. I beat the cream till stiff peaks formed, and sliced up some strawberries and kiwi to put in the center.
Again, using a piping bag fitted with a large star tip (you can just use the same one as before if you like), pipe some cream all around the inside edge (and up onto the top) of the meringue shell.
Next, spread the rest of the cream in the center.
Now you can start layering! I’ve done strawberry slices, then kiwi, then raspberries, and then blueberries. You could always make this with a big jumble of mixed fruit on the inside, which is also pretty, but I went for the rainbow of colors look on this one.
And there you go! It’s done! Pavlova should be served on the day you make it, so plan ahead to make sure you have time to do it. It’s really not difficult at all, and not too time consuming, either. Which is nice. If you have a tight schedule, however, and you want to work ahead– you can make your meringue the day before, and then decorate it before you serve it. You can also wash your fruit the day before if that helps.