Monday, 23 January 2012

The Kiwi Pavlova

Can you believe that there's actually been debates about whether or not the Pavlova (also affectionately known as "the pav") originated in New Zealand or Australia? Apparently, our current Prime Minister John Key had nothing better to do in 2009 than tell the media how ridiculous the Australians were for claiming it as theirs. There were even formal researches conducted to settle the matter.

If you must know, it was concluded that it belongs to New Zealand. ;)

Anyway, for the unfamiliar, the Pavlova is basically a giant meringue with a softer center, traditionally topped with whipped cream and Kiwi fruit (or any other fruit really). The best one I've ever had was at a restaurant called Lonestar. It had heavy, whipped cream sandwiched between 2 mini pavlovas, served with strawberry slices and a drizzle of passion fruit sauce. Yum (and that's coming from someone who hates passion fruit).

Anyway, I was a bit daunted at the thought of making the pavlova as it involves beating egg whites stiff, and beating it some more until it's glossy from the sugar. Beating for a long, long time. With a manual egg beater. Gulp.

So, imagine how thrilled I was when my mother's flatmate came back from the shops and brought this home.

It was like the heavens opening up, dazzling light shining down, angels blaring trumpets... anyway.

So what you need for your pavlova are the following ingredients:

 4 large egg whites at room temperature
 1 cup caster sugar
 1 tsp white vinegar
 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
 1/2 cup whipped cream
 fresh fruit if desired (for this one I cheated and used fruit salad in a can. Kiwi fruit and strawberries are typically used for a Kiwi Pavlova)

Once you've got everything you need, preheat your oven to 275F (140C). Make sure your oven rack is in the middle. Line your baking tray with foil.

Next, beat your egg whites (are they room temperature? They should to be) until they form soft peaks. I set the mixer on medium speed.

Once you've got your peaks forming, without stopping the beater, gradually add the sugar. I did mine one teaspoon at a time.

After a while, your mixture should look more stiff and glossy. Like this.

I know it already looks yummy, but you're not done yet. Once you've got the consistency above, you can turn off your mixer. Sprinkle the cornstarch and vinegar on your mixture, then fold it in gently. After that, do the same with the vanilla.

Pavs are normally baked as a whole 7-9in round cake, but I made mine into roundish 4in single serves. In other words, I lumped one spatula full on top of another on the foil lined tray, but left smallish pockets at the top for the fruit and cream.

Not the best picture, I know. But these will rise and expand, so I made sure to leave space between each pav.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a very light brown. If you're going to make it as one large pavlova, it might need more time in the oven.

My sous-chef wasn't impressed from being told to get away from the oven. He kept peeking into the window. Anyway...

Don't open the oven door unless you're about to remove the pavlovas from the oven. Pavs are notorious for deflating. One of my little beauties collapsed in. Don't panic if that happens, you can fill it in with whipped cream.

Once your pavlova is done, I'd recommend leaving it in there, with the oven door ajar. Once you open that oven door, the pavlova shell will start cracking (or unfortunately, collapsing) within 5 minutes. Just leave it to cool. I finished baking around 4pm and didn't get it out of the oven until after dinner.

When you're ready to serve your yummy dessert, whip your cream, then slather on top. Garnish with fruit.

Serve and enjoy. Mmm... nom nom nom.

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