My first attempt at pavlova wasn’t brilliant, and I knew it could have been better. Comments from chrisb, sister, and others helped me confirm what I instinctively thought to be problems with the recipe or methods that I employed. Input like that is why I REALLY like this blog as they collectively help to improve something I’ve tried to cook, and which ultimately, other readers may try to do for themselves. So while I am still not a huge fan of pavlovas, I wanted to give it a second try so that I would have a recipe I was happy with and could refer to in future if and when I had to make another one. I was much happier with this iteration.
First the analysis. The first round was definitely cooked in an oven that was way too hot. I used frozen eggwhites that tv hosts claim are fine, but I am almost certain they are not as good as fresh eggwhites. I didn’t whip the eggwhites enough or in the right progression of slow to fast to get a silky and stable enough result. I may have introduced the sugar into the egg whites too quickly. I followed Nigella’s lead, taken from Australian food expert Stephanie Alexander, that instead of building a bowl of meringue, one makes a meringue and when it is done, turns it over onto the serving platter so the cream and fruit goes on top of the ugly bottom and sinks into the meringue, while the crisp edges stay crisp… For this second run, I used 6 fresh egg whites at about 70F. I cleaned the mixing bowl with the freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 lemon, using a clean paper towel. This step was to remove any hint of grease inside the bowl and beaters that could affect the whipping of the egg whites.
I then started the Kitchen Aid mixer on low and when the eggs got a little frothy increased the speed to medium high and about 1-2 minutes later put the machine on the highest setting. When the eggwhites had some stiffish peaks, but not dry, I added 1.5 cups of white sugar, but introduced it by the spoon full instead of dumping the entire amount in. I also added 3 teaspoons of baking powder (others use cornstarch), two teaspoons of good real vanilla and 1 teaspoon of vinegar and continue to whip this for several minutes until I got a denser, stable and shiny consistency. I knew at this point this was already much better than the first time around.
I formed the meringue into two medium sized “bowls” and stuck them into an oven heated to exactly 300F, then immediately turned it down to 230F, though it took some 20-25 minutes to get down to 240F, and I sometimes opened the oven door to help release the heat. After an hour, and the meringues were just vaguely tanned, I turned off the oven and left the meringues in there for some three hours until cooled. The bowls cracked a bit and deflated in the middle slightly. Just before serving, I whipped up a lot of cream, added some leftover passionfruit jam to the cream, and piled it into the “well” of the meringue, hiding the cracks.
I added sliced nectarines, plums and lots of blueberries and placed that on top. Sprinkled it all with some powdered sugar and served it soon after to oohs and aahs… This was a solid 8.5 out of 10. Good enough for my files and future use, and you guys can try it as well if interested. If at first you don’t succeed, try again. :) The dessert looks great, but I am still wondering what the big deal is with pavlovas… :)