U.S.A. you know how to party! New Zealand…hmmmm…not sure. A few years ago I was in Hawaii and staying on Pearl Harbor for Independence day (love, love, love Hawaii by the way, but who doesn’t?). O.M.G. it really was quite spectacular! There was huge fair and concert then massive fireworks that went for around 20 minutes. I had never seen such amazing fireworks that went on for so long, and that was just for the military base, I can’t imagine what all the other celebrations around the country were like.
This weekend is Waitangi Day which I guess is a little like our New Zealand Day. Unfortunately though there really are no celebrations like the Forth of July or Australia Day or Canada Day which I’ve also been to. No fireworks or big parties. Instead I’ll probably spend the day relaxing in the sunshine or at the beach with my family – or maybe stuck at home, my toddler is potty training, wish me luck! Despite this, I thought I would be a little patriotic and make a pavlova. I know, I know New Zealand and Australia are always fighting over who owns the pavlova and also lamingtons, but regardless it is definitely a quintessential New Zealand dish.
I grew up with my Mum making pavlovas for almost every celebration but can you believe that I only made my first pavlova a couple of months ago? I’m not sure why it has taken me over 30 years to make one and I’m also not sure what changed. I do know however that I am loving pavlovas right now! They are so easy to make and what’s better is they are pretty much all prepared ahead of time, just dollop on some cream and fruit and serve.
Okay, so they are really easy to make, but I have struggled a little to perfect them. Think little cracks in my pavlova, the pavlova sinking in the middle and the pavlova weeping. It’s perfectly okay to eat and looks just great, but sometimes you just want perfection. So I’ve been doing some research and here you have it, my pavlova tips and tricks for when you just don’t want a pavlova fail!
– Use an electric mixer. It is too difficult to get enough air into your egg whites by doing it by hand.
– If you can, use older eggs but still within their expiry date. This will give you more volume.
– Use egg whites that are at room temperature. Again this gives the egg whites more volume.
– Use a glass or metal bowl and ensure all your equipment is extremely clean without a speck of grease. The easiest way to do this is to rub everything down with a paper towel and a little lemon juice before you start. Again this gives the egg whites more volume.
– Use caster sugar versus regular granulated sugar. This allows the sugar to dissolve quicker without overheating the eggs.
– Gradually add the caster sugar spoonful by spoonful. Again this will give you more volume.
– Ensure all the sugar is dissolved. You can check this by rubbing a little of the mixture between your fingers and if you can’t feel any of the sugar granules then it has dissolved. This prevents your pavlova from weeping.
– Okay, here’s a confusing one! So you want to really beat your eggs until all the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is stiff (turn the bowl upside down over your head and if the mixture stays in the bowl then it is good, if not…oh dear!) but don’t over beat your mixture or your pavlova will have bubbles in it. So just mix until all the caster sugar has dissolved no more than around 15 min and you should be fine.
– I like to add cornflour and vinegar to my pavlova. This helps to stabilise the egg whites (i.e. to help them hold their volume). But I’ve also heard of people using boiling water but I have never tried this.
– Never open the oven while it is cooking. This will reduce the chance of your pavlova collapsing. In addition, once the pavlova has finished cooking, leave it in the oven, again without opening the door, for at least 2 hours or overnight so that the temperature slowly drops reducing the chance of it collapsing. In saying that, my pavlova nearly always collapses in the centre but I just cover it up with whipped cream.
– Start cooking on a high temperature then reduce to a low slow temperature (I start at 180C/350F then reduce to 120C/220F) this will give you a crunchy crust and marshmallow centre. Remember you’re not cooking a meringue which is completely hollow, a pavlova defined by its marshmallow centre so you want to cook it for a shorted time and on a higher temperature.
So you’ve read all my hints and tips but here’s the best one – don’t listen to any of them! Just make your pavlova, be happy if it cracks or sinks or is chewy or completely falls to pieces. They’re meant to look messy and taste just as good. So just dollop big spoonfuls of cream on top and cover with fruit – it will be delicious! In particular cover it with my delicious honey and thyme roasted nectarines and hazelnuts. This makes the pavlova so fragrant and a wonderful contrast of tart and sweet and soft and crunchy.
What do you top your pavlova with? I would love to hear! Please comment below.
Enjoy. Kate xo
Summer Pavlova with Honey and Thyme Roasted Nectarines and Hazelnuts
- 3 free-range egg whites
- 3/4 cups caster sugar
- 1 tsp cornflour
- 1 tsp white vinegar
- 1 cup 250mL/8.5oz cream
- 5 nectarines halved
- 3 tsp runny honey
- 4-5 sprigs fresh thyme
- 3 Tbsp roasted hazelnuts roughly chopped
- 1-2 Tbsp freeze dried strawberries crushed
- 5-10 blueberries optional
- edible flowers
For the pavlova:
Preheat oven to 180C/350F fan-bake.
Place egg whites in a very clean bowl (see note) and using an electric mixer beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add the caster sugar and beat until all the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is thick and glossy with stiff peaks. To check the sugar has dissolved just rub a little of the mixture between your finger and thumb and if it doesn’t feel gritty then the sugar has dissolved. Gently fold in the cornflour and white vinegar.
Draw a 15cm/6in circle on a piece of baking (parchment) paper and turn over (the easiest way to do this is to just draw around a 15cm/6in cake tin). Dot a little of the mixture in the four corners of a baking tray and place the baking paper on top. This prevents the baking paper from slipping around when you spread the pavlova mixture on top.
Spoon on the pavlova mixture and spread out to the 15cm/6 circle. Make the pavlova slightly indented in the centre to help prevent it from cracking (although this always seems to happen to me but it’s not a problem as it will be covered with whipped cream).
Place in the oven and bake for 5min and 180C/350F then reduce the temperature to 120C/250F for a further 45min. Turn off the oven and leave to cool for at least 2 hours or preferably overnight. DO NOT open the oven at any stage.
For the topping:
Preheat oven to 200C/390F fan-bake.
Place halved nectarines, skin side down on a baking tray or in a oven-proof dish. No need to remove the stones, it’s easier to do this when they have been cooked. Scatter over the sprigs of thyme and drizzle with the honey.
Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 min or until they are cooked but still firm - you want them to be holding together and reasonably firm not falling apart. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.
Combine cream and vanilla in a large bowl and beat until whipped.
Top pavlova with cream, fruit, hazelnuts, freeze dried strawberries and flowers if using. Serve immediately, but also great the next day for breakfast (refrigerate any leftovers).