For every Christmas, as far back as I can remember, my mum has baked or assisted in the baking of a Pavlova. A Pav, as it’s affectionately known, has been a cultural staple of Australia and New Zealand since its creation during the 1930s and is a common dish at holiday meals in both countries. That’s because it’s tasty (rich but not too rich), customizable to fit everyone’s individual desires, and easy to bake (but difficult enough you still feel rewarded).
The Pav is a meringue-based cake that is topped with whipped cream and sliced fruit. The combination of all of these flavors is like a festival in your mouth: Everyone’s dancing and having a good time together, and it’s just a little more exciting and unique than your average keg party. The different flavors and textures titillate your taste buds and make the party accessible for anyone and everyone. The meringue base is light and fluffy, so you don’t have to worry about over-stuffing yourself (at least not with the first slice), the whipped cream appeals to the sugar-addicted children (and college students who are having fun if it comes from a can), and the fruit on top placates all of the health-conscious parents who are worried about those children overdosing on processed sugar.
If the Pav’s politician-like ability to please everyone isn’t enough to convince you to start making it, then surely the ease of its preparation will do you in. To be honest, a child could make a Pav. I know, because I did it (with my mum). Even so, the following recipe, based on Nigella Lawson’s “Nigella Christmas,” should be enough to convince you that a Pavlova is a must-bake.
8 egg whites
1.1 pounds of caster sugar
4 teaspoons of cornstarch
2 teaspoons of white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
Topping Ingredients (although you can modify the fruit selection):
2 3/4 cups of double cream
1 cup of powdered sugar
1.5 cups of blueberries
Heat the oven to 360°F. Cover the bottom of a baking pan with parchment paper and draw a circle with a diameter of 10 inches on it.
Place the egg whites in a bowl and whisk them until Himalayan peaks form; following this, slowly whisk in the caster sugar until all of it is mixed into the mountains, which should be rigid and shiny like the sunny side of Everest.
Pour the corn starch, white wine vinegar, and vanilla extract over the egg white massif and gently fold them in using a spoon. Place the mountain range mixture onto the parchment paper inside the circle and level your alps, flattening and smoothing the top and sides with a spatula.
Place your soon-to-be pavlova in the oven and decrease the heat to 250°F straightaway. Bake for one hour. After the hour has elapsed, turn off the oven and let your creation cool thoroughly. After it cools, remove the meringue from the oven. If necessary, it can be placed in an airtight repository for a few days.
Just before the mastication festivities are to begin, upend the meringue discus, place it onto your preferred stand or plate, then remove the parchment paper.
Whip the cream until thickened, but still supple, dollop it onto the discus, and smear it around the entire meringue.
Cut off the strawberry stems and slice the strawberries in half. Place them, along with the blueberries, gently on top of the Pav, organizing the fruit so that every single slice receives an adequate portion. Finally, sift the powdered sugar over the entire masterpiece.
Eat (preferably at a party with friends).
Cormac Chester can be reached at email@example.com.