Saturday, 19 April 2014

Strawberry Pavlova

This is the dessert that I make most often, varying the filling to use whatever fruits are in season. Pavlovas look so much more complicated to make than they are in reality. There is only one rule to remember when making meringues, which is that all utensils, including the mixing bowl must be scrupulously clean or you will not be able to whisk the egg whites to the correct consistency. Any trace of water or grease will spell disaster and you will have to start again. But other than this, pavlovas are extremely easy to make and are an incredibly popular dessert.
 
Pavlovas have a crisp meringue exterior but should have a soft billowy, marshmallow-like consistence on the inside. They are usually served with a filling of cream and fresh fruit – some people favour using a crème Chantilly, but to be honest – the meringue contains enough sugar already so I don’t believe the cream needs added sweetening.

The version that I have made here uses strawberries, but I also like to make an autumnal version using sliced poached pears, some roasted hazelnuts and a generous drizzle of melted dark chocolate. After you have made the meringue you can add a little spice, a couple of tablespoons of toasted, desiccated coconut or some finely chopped toasted nuts before piling onto the parchment and baking in the oven. The recipe is fairly adaptable once you have made the basic meringue.
 
I love this dessert! It’s a wonderful way to finish a meal, being light but sweet and rich at the same time and simply delicious.
 

Ingredients:

4 large egg whites
225g caster sugar
4tsp cornflour
2tsp lemon juice
½tsp vanilla paste/extract
Filling:
300g fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered
350ml single cream
 

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 140C/Fan oven 120C/Gas Mark 2. Line a large square baking tray with baking parchment and set aside.
2. Place the egg whites in a large mixing bowl and using a hand-held electric mixer beat until the egg whites are standing in soft peaks. Add in the caster sugar, a tablespoon at a time, mixing well between each addition.
3. When all the sugar has been added, sieve in the cornflour and mix well to fully incorporate. Add the lemon juice and vanilla paste and mix in to the meringue.
4. Pile half of the meringue on to the parchment lined baking tray. Using a metal spoon, spread the meringue into a rough circle, about 20cms in diameter. Place blobs of the remaining meringue on top of the meringue circle around the edge.
5. Place into the preheated oven for 1 hour. After the baking time is up, switch off the oven but leave the meringue to fully cool before removing (I tend to make my pavlovas before I go to bed and let them cool in the oven overnight).
Filling:
6. Carefully remove the baking parchment from the bottom of the cooled pavlova. Place on a serving plate. Softly whip the cream. Scatter half of the quartered strawberries over the top of the pavlova and then dollop on the cream. Finish by scattering over the remaining strawberries.
 
Serves 6-8.