Louise Allan decries herself as a cook, but believes she has mastered one dish: the Aussie pavlova. Laying down the gauntlet to Word of Mouth TV’s own Kate Forsyth, she has provided her favourite pavlova recipe in what may shape up as something of a cook-off. The recipe that follows asks for bananas, passionfruit and strawberry – an irresistible (and I believe the best) summer combination – but you can top your pavlova with any delicious summer fruit. In the image above, the banana is substituted with kiwifruit.
Preheat oven to hot (190-200˚C). Cover greased flat baking tray with Gladbake or a split-open oven bag. Grease well with butter, sift over some extra cornflour and tap off any excess (the cornflour gives the pavlova a good crust).
Using an 18cm cake tin as your guide, mark out a circle on the prepared tray with a skewer.
Beat the egg whites and salt until stiff. Add the caster sugar gradually, 1 heaped tablespoon at a time, then beat well after each addition. Continue until all the sugar has been added (see hints below). Stir in the vinegar, cornflour and vanilla.
Pile the meringue onto the tray, keeping within the marked circle. Smooth over the top so it resembles a flat cake (don’t hollow out the centre). For a good marshmallow centre, it is always important to have the mixture at least 6cm high. Reduce the oven temperature to very slow (130˚C), then bake for 75 minutes. Remove meringue from the oven; turn upside-down onto a flat serving plate. Remove the paper or ovenwrap carefully.
Using the tip of a small vegetable knife, mark a smaller circle in surface crust (this allows the centre to sink slightly to form a nest). Allow meringue to cool, then fill with whipped cream. Slice the bananas, then mix immediately with the passionfruit pulp (to prevent discolouration). Place on the pavlova just before serving and decorate with the strawberries.
Hints – the secret to a good pavlova
Don’t hurry the beating. Make sure each tablespoon of sugar is well mixed before adding the next. When it’s finished, the meringue should be thick, shiny and able to hold its shape. If the meringue seems to be thin, continue beating until it thickens.
Bake immediately. If the meringue is left to stand for too long before baking, it will deflate and spread out of shape.
When making any meringue make sure the bowl and beaters are very clean and free from any grease or egg yolk. If you should break the egg yolk when separating the eggs, it can be easily removed from the egg white by using an egg shell.
Always chill the bowl and beaters prior to whipping cream, especially during the hot summer months.
This pavlova can be successfully made a few hours before serving but it is best to add the cream filling and the fresh fruit just before serving.
If you are nervous about turning the pavlova upside down, simply bake it directly on a flat oven proof dish.
If using a large pavlova plate, use 6 egg whites, 1 ½ cups caster sugar, 1 ½ tsp vinegar, 1 ½ Tb cornflour and 1 ½ tsp vanilla, then bake for 1 ½ hours at 130˚C.
Image Credit: By Hazel Fowler [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons