Every Christmas for as long as I can remember we’ve had pavlova for dessert. Crispy on the outside, marshmallow-y on the inside of the meringue, and filled with homemade custard (none of this pouring from a carton!), whipped cream and fresh fruit.
My mum used to make the pavlova every year and then I took over the tradition when I was about 13 so I like to think of myself as a bit of a seasoned expert. The recipe is my mum’s but there’s no cool story about how it was passed down through generations. She literally got the recipe off the sticker on a baking tin from Coles in 1990.
Let’s get started.
For the meringue you’ll need:
- 4 free range egg whites
- 1 ¼ cups caster sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornflour
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
For the custard you’ll need:
- 4 free range egg yolks
- ¼ cup caster sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla (I recommend using vanilla bean paste as I find it has a better flavour than the watery vanilla essence)
- 1 tablespoon cornflour
- ¾ cup milk
- ½ cup cream
And for the decorations:
- thickened cream, whipped (the amount is up to you, I usually use about 400ml but you can use more)
- kiwi fruits
Begin by preheating your oven to 250 degrees Celsius. I use a fanforced oven.
Next, separate your egg whites from the yolk. You can buy fancy tools to make this easier, some people reckon you can also do it with a water bottle, but I just prefer the old fashioned way of cracking the egg and draining out the white by continually transferring the yolk to each side of the shell.
Once your egg whites are separated, add them to a mixing bowl and start beating on a medium-high speed. (This year I was lucky enough to buy a beautiful Kitchenaid which does all the hard work for me, but for the last what, 12 years or so, I’ve slaved away over this with a hand held mixer and believe me, your arm gets very sore. I am using the whisk attachment but in the past I just used regular old beaters and they do the job just fine.)
Beat the egg whites until they foam up and start to build a bit of thickness.
Gradually add in the sugar. I like to do it in two separate amounts so it doesn’t spray everywhere and I find it mixes in nicely if it’s done slowly.
Ideally we need to beat this egg white and sugar mixture for about 25 minutes with a hand mixer, or if you’re using a Kitchenaid (or similar) it takes about 18 minutes. After about 5 minutes of mixing, add in the cornflour and the lemon juice and keep on beating.
Once you can hold the bowl upside down over your head and nothing falls out, or more sensibly: once stiff peaks have formed, the beating is done.
There’s all different ways you can present a pavlova. Some people like to make a really thick round base, others like to make a rectangular base (easy to serve), but I like to try and be a bit fancy and do a two tier pavlova.
I find that pizza trays work well for round pavlovas. Take a sheet of greaseproof paper and a plate smaller than the tray and draw an outline. This is because the meringue will expand and we don’t want it to explode over the side of the tray. Once you’ve drawn your outline flip the paper over and dust with cornflour (note: DO NOT FORGET THIS STEP. I did once and it was disaster, the paper will not come off a cooked meringue).
Spoon out your mixture into the circle and spread out evenly. Sometimes this can take a while and a bit of maneuvering but it’s important to get it consistent.
Once you’re happy with how it looks, pop it in the 250 degree oven and as soon as you have closed the oven door reduce the temperature to 120 degrees Celsius. Leave it to bake for about 1 hour and 20 minutes. When the time is up, turn the oven off and open the door about a quarter of the way. Do not remove the pavlova until it has cooled completely.
Onto the custard.
Beat the egg yolks and sugar until a smooth consistency is formed.
Add the vanilla and cornflour, combine and then add the milk and cream.
Pop it into a saucepan on a medium heat and stir slowly with a whisk until thickened. Move off the hot plate and let cool.
And the final stage: the cream and fruit.
Whip 400ml (or more) of thickened cream until light and fluffy.
Slice kiwi fruit and strawberries, cut open passionfruit and scoop out the goo inside.
Start with the base on the serving platter.
Spread custard on the base (you can also put it on the top layer but I try not to make the top layer too heavy in case it collapses!) Following this, add a layer of cream, and then a layer of strawberries and kiwi fruit.
Once the bottom layer is complete, very gently place the second meringue on top. Repeat the steps above: cream, strawberries and kiwi. And finish it off by pouring the passionfruit on top.
And you’re done! Enjoy.