A meringue for Pavlova can be challenging to bake. This is more so if you stay in an area with high humidity. I used to rely on a recipe that worked well whilst I was staying in a country that was dry throughout most of the year. When I used that same recipe locally, it didn’t work. I was stumped. The recipe that used to produce rather lovely meringues was now baking meringues that wept syrup from the bottom, collapsed and tasted like yesterday’s soap sponge. I had to go through countless eggs to come up with this recipe. It fairs well in a humid climate. The meringues might not bake as baby powder white as I would like but everything else from the taste, to the crisp shells, to the marshmallow centre was perfect. It did not collapse, weep syrup from the bottom and crack lines were a rarity. If you scroll down to the bottom half of this post, under my ‘Tips’ section, there is a Q&A which might interest you including what to do if the meringues fail. With this recipe, I hope I will be able to save you the frustration that I had to go through to get the meringue right.

Pavlova, Gluten Free Dessert

Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 2 hours for four 6″ (15 cm) meringues;
2 hours for one 9″ (23 cm) meringue;
It might take +/- 15 minutes
more/less for the meringue(s) to bake through.
Inactive: 3 hours or until the meringue completely cools down
Level: Difficult but what an achievement it will be when you get them baked right!
Makes: One 9″ (23 cm) pavlova OR
Four  5″ – 6″ (13cm – 15 cm)
Oven Temperature: 360 F (180 C) and then reduce immediately to 230 F (110 C) once meringue is placed in oven. Oven rack adjusted to lowest shelf.
Can recipe be doubled? No
Make ahead? The meringue keeps well in an air tight container for up to 4 days without the whipped cream, fruits and any other toppings on it.
The cream can be whipped, covered and kept refrigerated a few hours ahead.
The strawberries can be macerated in strawberry jam a few hours ahead. Keep refrigerated.

Ingredients

For the meringues
5 egg whites (3/4 cups)*
1/4 teaspoon Cream of Tartar**
1 and 1/3 cup (10 and 1/2 oz) (300 g) caster/superfine sugar***
1 Tablespoon cornflour/cornstarch*
1/2 teaspoon vinegar**
To top the 4 pavlovas
2 cups thickened/double cream***
1.1 lbs (500 g) strawberries
4 golden kiwis
1/2 cup (8 Tablespoons) homemade strawberry jam*
* There should be no trace of yolks in the egg whites. Even if there is a tiny trace, you must start over with fresh eggs as the egg whites will not whip up. For suggestions to use up egg yolks, please scroll down to ‘Tips’.
** 
This helps to stabilise and hold the structure of the whipped egg whites and prevents a pool of liquid egg white that might otherwise form at the bottom of the bowl of whipped egg whites.
*** Do not cut down on the sugar.  Do use caster or superfine sugar. Larger sugar crystals will not dissolve completely into the egg whites.
* Helps to hold the meringue’s structure and encourage a marshmallow textured centre
** 
Any clear coloured variety. (Not imitation vinegar).I use apple cider vinegar. Helps to stabilise the whipped egg whites.
 *** Do not substitute with single/cooking/pouring cream as it does not contain enough of a fat content for it to whip up.  The cream should have at least a minimum fat content of 35% -whipping cream would fall under this category. However, to top these white meringues, I prefer using thickened/double cream with a minimum 45% fat content. After whipping, the cream holds its shape better and is more likely to stay on top of the pavlova instead of sliding off especially after the pavlova is sliced.
* 
Apart from being too sweet, store bought jam can be gummy. Try making my quick and easy recipe for homemade strawberry jam.  It’s sweet, slightly tart and has a looser consistency. Perfect for mixing with strawberries to top pavlovas. Click here, Strawberry Jam Simplified

Method

Turn the oven on to 360 F (180 C). Position the oven rack to the lowest shelf.

Prepare your baking tray
1. Take the size of your oven into account when deciding what size of a meringue to bake. If you have a smaller sized oven, your only option might be to bake a 9″ (23 cm) meringue. Whatever size you choose, draw out a template for your meringue.
2.Have a sheet of parchment paper that will fit onto your baking tray.
3. For a 9″ meringue, use a 9″ dinner plate and with a pencil, trace a circle on the parchment paper. Remove the plate, turn over the parchment paper and use the unpenciled side to pile on the whipped egg whites.
4. For four 5″ – 6″ (13cm – 15 cm) meringues, do likewise but with 5″ – 6″ (13cm – 15 cm) plates. Remember to leave a 1 and 1/2″ to 2″ (4 to 5 cm) space between circles. These white meringues will not expand very much but the space allowance lets you peel off each meringue from the parchment with less chance of you accidentally knocking and wrecking the meringue next to it. They are very delicate.

Whipping the egg whites
1. All the kitchen utensils you use, -mixing bowl, whisk, spoons, bowl that holds the egg whites, has to be free of any trace of grease.
2. Clean them with a vinegar soaked kitchen paper towel. This removes any trace of grease that might otherwise prevent your egg whites from being whipped up properly.
3. I only use my stand mixer, KitchenAid, to whip egg whites. A hand held mixer will not be powerful enough and unless you have strong arm muscles, I would not recommend doing it by hand.
4. I keep my machine running at medium speed, KitchenAid dial 5, throughout the whipping process.
5. Start whisking the egg whites until it is frothy. Add the 1/4 teaspoon of Cream of Tartar and continue whisking.

6. After 2 to 4 minutes, when the egg whites have reached stiff peaks as in whites can stand in a peak (refer to image directly below), gradually add 1 tablespoon of sugar. I take 8 to 10 seconds to add every tablespoon of sugar. Let the mixer run for a full 10 seconds before adding the next tablespoon of sugar. You must add it 1 tablespoon at a time to ensure that the egg whites can be whipped up into beautiful glossy stiff peaks. Do the same for the rest of the sugar. This process should take about 5 to 8 minutes.

7. As soon as the egg whites have been whipped to stiff glossy peaks (refer to image below), check that all the sugar has been incorporated by rubbing a little of the egg whites between two fingers. If you do not feel any grains of sugar, all is good. Sometimes, I have to continue whipping for an additional 1 to 2 minutes to get all the sugar incorporated. Refrain from over whipping as the meringue might weep or collapse in the oven from over whipping.

8. Fold in the 1/2 teaspoon of vinegar with a few quick strokes. Then, sift and fold in 1 tablespoon of cornflour/cornstarch with another few quick strokes. Do not over mix.

Bake
1. To prevent your parchment paper from shifting on the baking tray, dab tiny amounts of whipped egg whites on the baking tray. Stick the parchment paper on the tray.
2. Pile the whipped egg whites onto the pre-drawn circle(s). Remember penciled side faces down.
3. With the help of 2 spoons, pile the sides at least 2″ (5 cm) high and as straight as you can get it. Create a very shallow well, not deeper than 3/8″ (1 cm). The idea is to create a lip around the circumference as it will help keep the toppings (cream and fruit) in after you add them. Do not create a deeper well as the meringue will collapse/crack.

4. Put the tray into the 360 F (180 C) oven on the lowest rack. Turn down the temperature straight away to 230 F (110 C).

When is it baked through?
1. If you stay in an area with high humidity, don’t be surprised if it takes +/- 15 minutes more/less, and sometimes even longer for the meringue to crisp up.
2. Only open the oven door 1 hour 45 minutes into baking to check if it is baked through. Do not be tempted to open the oven door any earlier as the meringue might crack/collapse.
3. With the meringue(s) still in the oven, gently touch the centre of the meringue with you finger. It should feel firm and crisp with a feel of hollowness underneath the crisp. You should be able to gently peel off the meringue from the parchment paper. If you cannot peel it off the parchment paper, it needs to continue baking for at least 15 to 30 minutes. If you can peel off the parchment paper, tap the bottom lightly. It should be firm and not moist. If it is at all moist, it needs to go back into the oven for 15 minutes.
4. When the meringue(s) are cooked through. Turn off the oven. Do not open it for at least 3 hours or until the oven has completely cooled down. Open it any sooner and the meringue might crack/collapse. If you are not serving it straight away, leave it on the parchment paper and store in an airtight container for up to 4 days. Be careful as you transfer the meringue(s). It is fragile.

To serve

1. At least an hour before you are ready to serve, hull the strawberries and cut them into 1/2″ (1.5 cm) cubes. Put them in a bowl and stir in the 1/2 cup of jam. Let it macerate in the refrigerator.
2. 30 minutes before serving. Chill the mixing bowl and whisk that you will be using to whip the cream. If the thickened/double cream, mixing bowl and whisk are not cold enough, you might not be able to whip up the cream well. In fact, it might not whip at all.
3. Peel the golden kiwis. Cut them such that you have a few 3/4″ (2 cm) cubes. Set aside.
4. Choose the serving vessel and have it ready.
5. These white meringue(s) should peel off easily from the parchment paper. You could also invert the meringue(s) over your serving vessel and then peel off the parchment paper. That means you will be serving the meringue bottom side up.
6. Whip the cream until they have billowing looking peaks. Do not whip beyond that stage or the cream will start turning into grainy butter. You will have to start all over again. Don’t waste the over whipped cream though, use them in an omelette or in my recipe for Hamburger Buns, Savoury Buns, using it to replace the milk and butter called for in that recipe.
7. Lather cream onto meringue, add a layer of strawberry and jam mix. Don’t over pile it as the meringue might not be able to take the weight and collapse.
8. Dot with those jewelled looking golden kiwis.
9. Enjoy the Pavlova(s) immediately. They will not stay pretty looking for more than 10 minutes depending on how hot and humid a day it is!It is very good and very sweet.

Tips

Things to consider when deciding what size of a pavlova to make
I like to bake 4 smaller sized meringues (using the above recipe) instead of 1 larger one for the following reasons:

  • From my experience, smaller sized meringues hold their shape better than larger ones.
  • Meringues are brittle and once you start cutting into it to share amongst your diners, it will start to look progressively messier. It doesn’t help that the cream and fruits on top of it will start to dislodge themselves as you continue to slice into it.
  • Smaller sized pavlovas makes it easier for sharing. A couple could share one between themselves without the need for you to split it into two for them.
  • Splitting a smaller sized pavlova is not only easier, it will look more presentable when served on a plate than the 1/6 slice cut from a 9″ pavlova.
  • If I am not making pavlovas for entertaining, I can choose to:
  1. serve 4 smaller sized pavlovas over a few days
  2. give the meringues to friends
  3. make another dessert called Eton Mess – think crushed meringue, whipped cream and strawberries. It is especially good if you like strawberries and cream. I have already posted a recipe for that, except I called it Chocolate Eton Mess as I used crushed up chocolate meringue in it instead of the traditional white meringue. Go ahead and assemble Eton Mess with the traditional white meringue, click here for the recipe, Chocolate Eton Mess.

What if the meringue is not perfect?
What if it collapses or cracks? Don’t fret. Just cover it up with whipped cream and fruit. It is going to collapse, crack and break apart once you cut into it anyway. No use worrying over it. It will be yummy.

If you are still nervous about serving anything less than a perfect pavlova, the perfect dessert to make with the meringue is Eton Mess. It thrives on less than perfect meringues – cracked, broken, weeping ones. It helps that the recipe calls for the same ingredients as pavlovas, minus the kiwis, and I assure you they taste very good. Instead of piling on cream and strawberries on the meringue.

You put the broken meringue in a bowl, throw in the whipped cream and the strawberry and jam mix you prepared earlier. Give it a few stirs to incorporate and you have Eton Mess!

I have to say it yet again, if you like strawberries and cream, you will love Eton Mess. Click here for the recipe, Chocolate Eton Mess.

Yum!

Why is my meringue not perfect?
White meringues for pavlovas are notoriously difficult to bake with 100% success. There are numerous conditions that affect how well they will turn out. Here is a list of what you are up against:

  • Egg whites had traces of yolks.
  • Kitchen utensils had traces of grease.
  • Level of humidity on the day you baked…seriously, this is the biggest challenge. I have used a recipe with success in a dry climate country only to use it locally and have them completely collapse, crack and weep syrup.
  • Not adding the sugar to the egg whites at ‘stiff peak’ stage (as in sugar was added erroneously, before stiff peak stage or way after stiff peak stage).
  • Not adding the sugar gradually into the egg whites.
  • Not beating the egg whites at the correct mixer speed.
  • Over beating the egg whites after all the sugar had been added.
  • Creating a well on the surface of the meringue that was deeper than 3/8″ (1 cm) before baking.
  • Every oven’s internal temperature is different. Your oven’s internal temperature could be producing temperatures slightly different from mine. Meringues are super sensitive to oven temperature changes. Invest in an oven thermometer or you might just have to adjust your oven temperatures through trial and error. The latter is hardly helpful information but only you, through constant use of your oven and really through trial and error, will know how best to adjust your oven temperature if my recommended oven temperatures don’t work for you.

It sounds daunting but this recipe that I use works for me. I baked many, many failed meringues before I came up with this recipe. I do hope this recipe works for you too.

Apprehensive about baking white meringues?
Consider baking a chocolate meringue first. I find it much easier to bake successfully

What to do with all the egg yolks?
  • Tiramisu.  I cannot bring myself to use raw eggs in my dessert as there is always the risk of salmonella poisoning. However, Tiramisu is just not Tiramisu without eggs. I came up with a recipe that is between a custard and a Sabayon so not only is the Tiramisu I serve very safe for eating, it still has a wonderful richness that can only come from eggs. Click on this link, to read more, Tiramisu With The Eggs But Without The Raw Eggs.
  • Creme Anglaise, otherwise known as English Custard Sauce. This is a delicious sauce that can be used over so many desserts. It either complements the food it is served with or changes it altogether. For instance, Chocolate Cake is just chocolate cake when served as is. Serve it with this sauce and it is not just Chocolate Cake anymore. It is becomes a decadent dessert and a very delicious one too. Creme Anglaise poured over raspberries becomes in an instant, dessert!

WHAT’S COMING UP NEXT?

I just mentioned it in the preceding paragraph, so no surprises. I will be posting the recipe for Creme Anglaise, a much easier recipe than Pavlovas!

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