Another fresh and exciting recipe for you this year! 2018: the year we step out of our baking comfort zone.
What is pavlova? Pavlova is a dessert popular in New Zealand and Australia. It’s not as common here in the states, but I hope to help change that! A texture freak’s dream come true, pavlova is made from egg whites that are slowly baked in a relatively cool oven. The egg whites take on a chewy-crisp texture on top, a soft marshmallow texture inside, and a crunchy crisp texture around the edges. That’s three completely different textures in one single bite. The crunchy edges are just like meringue cookies.
Pavlova loves to be dressed up with assorted toppings, mainly fresh whipped cream and piles of fresh fruit. Naturally gluten free, pavlova is light, sweet, and screams warm weather favorite. Happy spring, my friends, we’re making PAVLOVA!!
I first experienced pavlova back in 2015 on a trip to Wenatchee, a city full of rolling hills and farmlands in Washington state. We visited the Stemilt orchards, home to some of the largest, juiciest cherries. There I tasted it with chunks of fresh mango and plenty of soaked cherries. After the trip, a reader emailed me her family favorite pavlova recipe. And 2 and 1/2 years later, I finally tried it myself.
To obtain the unique pavlova texture, you must adhere to an exact recipe. While it’s fun to play around with ingredients, pavlova is not the time to stray from what’s listed. It’s picky, but picky doesn’t mean difficult. In fact, you only need 5 ingredients to make pavlova and I bet you have each in your kitchen right now:
- egg whites
- an acid such as cream of tartar or vinegar
- vanilla extract
Let me explain why these ingredients are used.
THE PURPOSE OF EACH
- Egg whites – beaten into stiff peaks, egg whites are the base and volume of pavlova.
- Sugar – in addition to sweetening the dessert, sugar stabilizes the egg whites by holding them together both in the oven and as the whole pavlova cools. Without sugar, the protein molecules (science!) in egg whites will collapse. Additionally, sugar helps achieve the delightfully crisp texture. (Sugar is so much more than a sweetener in our baked goods. I find this article interesting and you will too!) Speaking of sugar, make sure that you use superfine or castor sugar. Just pulse sugar a few times in a food processor to reduce the size of the crystals.
- Acid – you can use 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar or 1 teaspoon white, apple cider vinegar, or even lemon juice. The pavlova will NOT taste like vinegar, I promise. The acid helps the egg whites hold onto air and, like the sugar, helps prevent the egg whites from collapsing. I tested with both and I actually prefer cream of tartar. I found that my pavlova spread a bit more when I used liquid acid.
- Cornstarch – I tested pav with and without cornstarch. I found that the center was fluffier and more marshmallow-y with cornstarch. Then I tested with 1 teaspoon cornstarch and 2 teaspoons cornstarch. I found it was a little chalky tasting with 2 teaspoons. I’m sticking to 1 teaspoon.
- Vanilla extract – purely for flavor!
(Not sponsored by any of these companies, but here’s exactly what I use.)
Ingredients are simple and method is effortless. There’s plenty of downtime when making pavlova. All you really have to do is watch it beat in your stand mixer then check on it in your oven. Kick your feet up!
Just like the meringue on top of our lemon meringue pie, whip the egg whites into super stiff peaks. Stiff enough that you can hold the whisk over your head and feel confident that the whipped egg whites won’t drop. 😉 Then you’ll spread the pavlova mixture onto your lined baking pan. You can use parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Do not grease the baking pan– use a nonstick surface instead. Spread it into a circle, about 8-9 inches in diameter. You can eyeball it or trace one with a pencil. I just eyeball it. Like I did in the lemon meringue pie video, use the back of a spoon to create decorative peaks. Make sure the edges are tall and you have a nice dip in the center. That’s were we’ll pile our whipped cream and fruit!
Alternatively, you can make mini pavlovas. Here I piped the mixture into 6 mini pavlovas using Ateco 849. A piping tip isn’t necessary– you can just spoon it on. Again, make sure you leave a dip in the center to hold the toppings.
A relatively cooler oven is imperative for properly cooking your pavlova, but let’s start the pavlova at 350°F (177°C) then reduce it down to 200°F (93°C). I do this to help “set” the outer crust quickly. This trick helps reduce spread.
A properly cooked pav is pale in color. Cracks and bumps are par for the course, but the pavlova shouldn’t completely deflate. Especially if you follow the precise measurements and instructions in the recipe. You can help avoid too many cracks by cooling the pavlova in the oven. The sudden change of temperature (inside the oven to outside the oven) shocks the pavlova, so it’s best to cool inside the cooling oven.
You can top your pavlova or mini pavlovas any which way, but here are some of my topping suggestions:
- Whipped cream is essential. You can get a little creative and flavor your whipped cream. Here are some fun flavored whipped creams.
- Homemade lemon curd. You’ll have exactly 4 egg yolks leftover anyway.
- Fresh berries
- Edible florals and herbs
- Strawberry compote
- Chocolate shavings
- Seasonal fruits like mango, kiwi, passionfruit, blood oranges
No need to get artistic, just pile it all on top into a massive pavlova mountain.
Things are bound to get a little messy when slicing, but if you cooked the pavlova long enough so that the bottom is crisp and the edges are set, it will hold a pie slice shape. This big thing serves about 8-10 people!
If you’re still on the fence about trying pavlova, might I remind you that the center tastes like marshmallows. ♥ ♥ ♥
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. (Preliminary note: you will quickly reduce the oven to 200°F (93°C) in step 4.)
- With a handheld mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form, about 5 minutes. Add the sugar in 2 additions, beating for 30 seconds between, then continue beating on high speed until glossy stiff peaks form, about 2 more minutes. The peaks should be stiff enough that you can hold the whisk upright and the peaks won't move. Add the vanilla extract and beat for 1 more minute. The peaks should still be very stiff. If not, keep on mixing on high speed. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the cream of tartar and cornstarch.
- Spread the pavlova mixture into an 8-9-inch circle (see note for mini size). You can make decorative peaks with the back of a large spoon if desired. Make sure the edges are relatively tall and there is a nice dip in the center.
- Place pavlova in the oven. As soon as you close the oven door, reduce heat to 200°F (93°C). The pavlova will stay in the oven as it cools down to 200°F (93°C). Bake until the pavlova is firm and dry, about 90 minutes total. Rotate the baking sheet if you notice some spots browning. Try to limit how many times you open the oven as the cool air will interrupt the baking.
- Turn the oven off and let the pavlova cool inside the oven. Once the pavlova is cool, you can store it covered tightly at room temperature for up to 2 days. Or serve right away.
- Once cool, top the pavlova with whipped cream and assorted toppings. Slice and serve.
Make ahead tip: See step 5 for making the pavlova in advance. Pavlova is best enjoyed right after it's garnished. It doesn't freeze well.
Egg whites: (1) Room temperature egg whites whip faster than cold egg whites. And (2) room temperature egg whites whip into a greater volume than cold egg whites. So make sure your egg whites are at room temperature before beginning.
Sugar: Superfine sugar dissolves easier into egg whites. To avoid tasting sugar granules, pulse 1 cup granulated sugar a few times in a food processor. You now have superfine sugar to use in the recipe.
Acid: You can use 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar or 1 teaspoon of white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or lemon juice.
Mini pavlovas: Divide pavlova mixture up into individual portions instead of spreading into one large 8-9-inch circle. In the photos, I piped the mixture into 6 mini pavlovas using Ateco 849. A piping tip isn't necessary-- you can just spoon it on. Make sure you leave a dip in the center to hold the toppings. Bake time depends on size, see step 4 for what to look for. If making 6 mini pavlovas like I did, bake for 35-40 minutes at 200°F (93°C). Start them in a 350°F (177°C) oven, like I do in this written recipe.
Pavlova base from reader Laurel. Thanks Laurel!
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