I was never a fan of pavlova, having eaten overly sweet versions. I made it a while back, as a friend wanted to learn how to make the meringue base. Several recipes I had seen used sweetened whipped cream on the meringue base, and /or sweetened fruit. To my mind, this dessert only works if you cut the sugar in everything else except the meringue. So we used unsweetened cream and kept the base relatively thin so that every bite has the perfect balance of crisp, chewy meringue, whipped cream and the berries.
Even the family reluctantly tried the pavlova, expecting cloying sweetness, and everyone was pleasantly surprised at how light and delicious it felt, like summer on a plate. It’s a quintessential summer dessert for me as I think it pairs very well with berries and tangy fruit like passion fruit. It’s also a visually stunning dessert and needs surprisingly little effort. For all it’s visual glory, meringue is easy to make and don’t let anyone put you off from trying. But do follow all the key steps to get a perfect result.
Steps to a perfect meringue:
- Separate the whites carefully, as even a speck of yolk and effect the quality of the meringue. Use a small bowl to separate each egg, so as not to contaminate the whole batch in case you end up breaking a yolk.
- The beaters & bowl should be spanking clean and dry.
- Older egg whites are better for whisking than fresher eggs
- Egg whites at room temperature beat the best.
- Once you reach “peak” stage with the whites, don’t overbeat as the whites can become dry and will have reduced volume.
- Make the meringue the day before you need it, or at least 6 hours beforehand. The best way to cool it without cracking is to leave it in the oven, so that’s why overnight works well as you are unlikely to use the oven.
A note about the berries:
I personally love to use a variety of berries in as it looks prettier and tastes more interesting but feel free to use only one type if that’s easier. Most of the berries can be used washed, dried, and uncooked, like in this version that I made a while back.
But if you use blackberries, or red/black currants, they benefit from a quick burst of stewing in a tiny bit of sugar. Just sprinkle a little sugar on the blackberries/currants, once the sugar disappears into the fruit, heat it gently just for a minute or 2 to dissolve any grains. Take off heat and cool. The trickle of juices adds a prettier touch to t he finished dessert.