Well it's coming up to the Diamond Jubilee and it certainly feels like we've been having a lot of celebrations recently in the Mamacook household.
Pavlova is one of the easiest desserts to make; it's an absolute doddle, not expensive either (depending on your choice of fruit) and an impressive dessert centrepiece. I've not gone for the meticulous decoration with fruit to show a Union Jack, frankly even though I'm feeling the patriotic fever this year, that seems a bit too twee but I have gone for a mixture of red and blue fruits; with the white cream and a recipe from a Commonwealth country, what could be more appropriate?
I'll tell you a secret... Not only is this so easy to make, the hardest bits can all be made the night before leaving you with some minor assembly work when your guests are around (which can even be achieved with glass of champagne in hand. I'm such a Slummy Mummy at the moment!)
Pavlova - easily serves 8-10 adults (or more). See notes below for serving to toddlers.
5 eggs, separated you will only need the whites for this recipe, it's crucial you have absolutely no egg yolk in there so crack them carefully. Save the yolks for another recipe or for brushing pastry.
10oz, 280g caster sugar (I used golden caster)
2 tsp cornflour (cornstarch)
2 tsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 pint, 600ml of double (heavy) cream
Fresh fruit of your choice
I would say don't even bother making this if you don't own an electric whisk. I did make this for the first time at University doing the whole thing with a balloon whisk, it's doable but it is a pain.
Quick tip, crack the egg whites into a small bowl then empty them into the larger bowl once you are sure no egg yolk has entered. That way you prevent the situation where you mess up the 5th egg ruining the whole bowlful.
Mix the cornflour, vinegar and vanilla.
Whisk the egg whites using an electric whisk until they hold upright easily when you switch off and pull out the beaters (firm peak stage). Then start adding the sugar. Add it in about 2oz at a time, so add in about a fifth of the sugar, whisk that in, then add in about a fifth of the cornflour mix. Keep alternating until both are used.
At the end of this you should have a thick, heavy, glossy mix.
Preheat the oven to 120oC (fan), 140oC (conventional), 280F.
Get some non stick baking paper and draw a circle on the back. Turn it over so this circle will not be touching the mix and put onto a very large baking tray or I used a pizza stone. That might sound crazy but all I was using it for was as a really big, round, rimless baking tray. The problem is pavlovas do spread so if you have a swiss (jelly) roll pan, the pavlova will end up oval or rectangular. By using a baking stone or very big baking tray, it eliminates this problem. Grease the baking paper with oil or butter. This is my top tip, you must grease the paper because it will stick as there's no fat in the meringue. Sticking is the only real point where pavlovas can go wrong as they're pretty fragile with their crispy outer edge and marshmallowy centre.
Gradually spoon out the meringue mix to make a circle. Think ahead on this, you are going to want a hollow in the middle to fill with cream and berries so make that hollow and build up the sides. Some people don't make a hollow for the cream but then it causes excessive cracking on the sides as it collapses (it might collapse a bit later but trust me, it will look better than if you didn't put a hollow in at all). Remember it will spread and that will make the creation lower so you're best off building it up as much as you can. I finish the sides by using a fork to swirl the mix and create peaks.
Bake it in the oven for 1 hour, then switch off the heat and allow it to sit for a further hour in the cooling oven.
Take out and put onto the serving plate taking care as you remove the paper. All of this can be completed the day before, just cover completely with cling film (saran wrap) when cool. Don't build up the rest until you're ready to serve.
Whip the cream until it's firm but still soft, you don't want it stiff. You can whip this a few hours in advance and leave it covered in the fridge.
When you're ready to assemble, spoon in the cream into the centre of the pavlova; it might collapse the meringue slightly in the centre, if it does, it doesn't matter and will still taste and look great.
Add the berries of your choice on top, be they a patriotic mix of red (strawberries, raspberries, loganberries) and blue (blueberries, blackberries) or whatever you fancy.
Indulge! Sit back feeling smug that only you know how easy that was to make...
To feed it to toddlers, if you want to avoid the sugar, give some of the cream and berries. If you're lucky they might not then notice they're not getting the meringue! If they do have a bit, be reassured that even if they ate a tenth of the pavlova (vert unlikely) they would still barely be getting an ounce of sugar. There are plenty of worse desserts than that.
I've linked this post up here and just because of the olympic theme, I've also linked it up here.