Sunday, March 13, 2011

Mini Pavlova

When I was little my mother always included a pavlova as part of our Christmas fair. She loved Christmas pudding with brandy custard, but it just wasn't the kind of thing that kids enjoyed. So she would always make a pavlova for my sister and I - of course she and Dad ate the pav as well as the pudding.

That pavlova has legendary status in my mind. I remember watching Mum mixing the merignue in a steaming pot sitting in another filled with boiling water on the stove. She'd have her electric hand mixer working over time as the meringue thickened and began to crust around the edges of the pot. Mum always coloured the pav - pink or green were the only colours in the seventies. When the meringue was ready she'd draw the outline of a dinner plate on a tray covered in foil, spread some meringue around the shape, then pipe a wall of meringue around it. Mum would put the pav in the oven, we'd go to bed, and in the morning, there it would be, a pink confection, still cooling in the oven.

When we moved to Penrith in 1980 that pavlova recipe disappeared, along with the recipe for Weekend Dainty. Until that time I had never known a pavlova that wasn't crusty. But in Penrith the pavs were squidgey. Mostly they came from a cake shop in Kingswood, decorated with strawberries and kiwi fruit and dripping with passionfruit plup. A thick layer of whipped cream sat atop a puff of wobbly meringue with the thinnest crust of crunch on the outside. I have to confess it was a taste sensation - pavs were never the same again for me from that point on.

These days you can buy a pavlova shell in any supermarket. But I have returned to making them myself - they are so simple and so satisfying. That crusty pav Mum made is lost in the sands of time. But I think this recipe marries all the good parts of that old classic with the modern squidgey pav.

3 large eggs whites
1 cup caster sugar
1 tsp white vinegar

1. Pre-heat the oven to 120 degrees. A slow oven will help keep the pavlova a light colour.
2. Whip the eggs until they form stiff peaks. Gradually add the caster sugar. Add the vinegar and continue to beat until the sugar is fully disolved.
3. Using a large spring-handled icecream scoop, position mounds of meringue on a baking tray lined with baking paper. You should get eight meringues out of this mix.
4. Bake for 45 mins, then turn oven off, open oven door and leave ajar to let the pavs cool inside for about half an hour.
5. Remove pavlovas from oven and carefully peel off baking paper. Cool on a wire rack for a minimum of two hours. If you eat them warm they'll have an eggy taste!

300ml thickened cream
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp pure icing sugar
12 strawberries
handful of fresh blueberries
chocolate sauce
raspberry sauce
icing sugar to dust

1. Place the cream, vanilla and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat until stiff peaks form. Chill for an hour before using.
2. On a dinner plate, make a decorative swirl with the chocolate sauce (I just used bought sauce). If you're pickey, pour the sauce into a piping tube, snip the tip and pipe a zig zag shape across the plate.
3. Position a pav in the middle of each plate. Cut one whole strawberry into quarters, leaving the green bit in tact so it holds together. Carefully spread the strawberry open and place on top of the pav. Add a couple of extra slices of strawberry and four or five blueberries.
4. Drizzle raspberry sauce inside the strawberry (I used Chef's Choice Rasberry Sauce), allowing it to run down the sides.
5. Dust one quarter of the pav with icing sugar so it falls deocratively on the chocolate sauce. Enjoy!!

Note: pavlovas will keep, undecorated, in an airtight container for up to a week.