Although a Pavlova is fabulous at any time of the year, it is a particular favourite of ours paired with summer berries. They are not difficult to make, providing you follow a few simple rules, and they really do make a stunning and delicious dessert.
I was taught to make Pavlova and Meringues as a child, and to this day I still follow exactly the same method I was shown back then, and am now teaching to my kids. For meringues I simply use egg whites and caster sugar in a weighed ratio of 1:2, but when I make a Pavlova I also include a little cornflour, white wine vinegar and vanilla extract, which allegedly stabilises the mix, and reduces the risk of it collapsing.
To start, I always wash my bowl and whisk attachment in hot soapy water and dry them. This is the only time I ever rewash something that is already clean, but I was taught that any traces of grease could cause the Pavlova to fail, and have never been tempted to challenge it! I was also taught to use older eggs for any meringue, and to make sure they are at room temperature, cracking them one at a time into a bowl to separate the whites from the yolk, discarding any of them where the yolk breaks (as that introduces fat into the whites).
We made a two layer Pavlova, and we used 200g egg whites (which was 6 eggs), 400g caster sugar, 2 teaspoons cornflour, 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. We beat the egg whites until they were so stiff that we could hold the bowl over our head without them falling out, and then beat in the sugar, a dessert spoon at a time, until it was all incorporated, and the mix was thick and glossy (this takes about 15 minutes). You are aiming for the sugar to dissolve into the egg white, and for the mixture to feel smooth rather than grainy between your finger and thumb (I had given up trying to take photos by this stage as we were all getting sticky!) Whisk in the cornflour, vinegar and extract and spoon onto baking parchment in two circles, then pop into your oven set on it’s coolest setting and bake for 2 hours. Essentially you are drying the meringue, rather than cooking it – you want it to come out a beautiful, snowy white. Pavlovas should be crisp on the outside, but still soft on the inside. I carefully peel mine off the baking parchment when I take it out, and check the bottom – if it is still very soft I’ll pop it back in the oven for another half hour.