Pavlova is as much a national icon in New Zealand as jandals and Split Enz and it’s practically synonymous with a Kiwi Christmas. When I first started this blog, I’d never made a pavlova and made it my mission to ‘get it right’ as soon as possible. It took a few gos before I was happy with the results but one thing I learned along the way is that no-one else cared what it looked like – it was delicious no matter what.
There’s sometimes a bit of confusion around what a pavlova is, with some people thinking a pavlova is just a bigger version of a meringue; it’s not. The ‘perfect’ pavlova should have a crunchy outer meringue shell and a soft and sizeable marshmallow interior. The contrast between the two is what makes this dessert so delightful.
I have included instructions for making both a smaller and a bigger pavlova, as I often find myself needing to adjust the recipe depending on how many I’m cooking for – I hope you find my instructions easy enough to follow. And, if you’re new to pavlova making, be gentle with yourself – it can take a bit of time to perfect it and you may need to make adjustments here and there. I’ve included a list of tips at the bottom of the post that you might find useful. Enjoy the journey – it’s well worth the effort.
To serve 6-8 (or 8-10)
- 4 egg whites for smaller pavlova (or 6 egg whites for larger pavlova)
- A pinch of salt
- 1 cup caster (superfine) sugar for smaller pavlova (or 1 1/2 cups caster sugar for larger pavlova)
- 2 teaspoons cornflour (cornstarch) for smaller pavlova (or 3 teaspoons cornflour for larger pavlova)
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste (optional)
- About 2 cups whipped cream to serve
- Seasonal fruit to serve
- Preheat the oven to 130°C (265°F). Place some baking paper on an oven tray and draw a 16cm (6 inch) circle in the middle of it (I use a bread plate and a marker) for the smaller pavlova (or an 18cm (7 inch) circle for the larger pavlova). Turn the baking paper over so the drawn circle is now underneath, but still visible. You’ll be using it as a guide later on.
- Place the egg whites in the bowl of your electric mixer with the pinch of salt and whisk the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks. A little at a time, add the sugar until the mixture is very stiff and glossy (this should take around 10 minutes all up). If you rub a little mixture between your fingers, you shouldn’t be able to detect any sugar granules in the mixture once finished.
- Sift in the cornflour and add the vinegar and vanilla (if using) and beat until combined (about a minute more).
- Spoon the mixture onto the baking paper in large dollops (using the circle as a guide). Slightly level the top so that it creates a good surface to add the cream later on. Bake for 1 hour for smaller pavlova (1 hour 15 minutes for larger pavlova).
- Turn the oven off and let the pavlova cool completely in the oven, oven door closed, for several hours, or overnight.
- Transfer the pavlova carefully to a serving plate (I use a large plate sized metal spatula).
- Whisk the cream to a soft peak stage and spread over the pavlova. Top with seasonal fruit and serve.
NB: If you make this ahead, store the pavlova (without cream) in an airtight container – it should last for up to about 3 days so long as it’s not too humid. Don’t refrigerate it as it will become soft. However, if you want to store left-over pavlova (with cream), you’ll need to refrigerate it – just eat it as soon as possible.
Tips for a perfect pavlova:
- Use scrupulously clean utensils – I wipe my bowl down first with vinegar to wipe away any fats or food debris.
- Use aged eggs at room temperature – I separate my whites and then keep in the fridge for 3 days before making the pavlova. I then take them out a wee while before making the pavlova to allow them to come to room temperature.
- Make sure you don’t get any hint of egg yolk in your egg white mixture, or else your whites won’t whip properly. To avoid this, separate your eggs one by one and transfer your separated whites to another dish before separating the next one. This way if you do break a yolk, it will only affect one egg white, rather than several of them.
- Try not to make a pavlova when there’s high humidity – this makes it hard to whip up the whites to their full volume and the pavlova may not store well.
- Make sure you whip long enough to dissolve the sugar, or else your pavlova will ‘weep’ while cooking.
- It’s easier to remove a pavlova from the baking sheet to your serving plate with a large round cake-sized spatula.
- People bake pavlovas in a multiple of ways – some at a low temperature (as I do), some at a higher temperature, and some at staggered temperatures. Experiment and see what works best for your oven.
- Pavlovas tend to crack and fall as they cool – this is absolutely normal and all adds to the charm. The whipped cream will cover most of it up anyway.
Food Photography Info: Canon 550D (EOS Rebel T2i); Canon 50mm 1.8 lens / Natural lighting