We met by chance, as it usually happens in the most beautiful friendships. We met on line, as it is happening often lately, thanks to a mutual passion. We met for the first time live in Florence, of course sitting at a table, being two foodbloggers greedy for food and life: we were surrounded by bowls of chickpeas purée, lampredotto and strawberry tiramisu, yet we could talk and dream about more food and recipes still to come. In our long list of things to do, food to try, places to see and books to read, at the very first place, before the hight tea at the Four Season Hotel and a trip to London, there was the pavlova.
Yes, because Emiko is half Australian. Once discovered this, I couldn’t help. I wanted to learn from the expert how to bake the real pavlova, the one you could easily eat in a Sydney family at Christmas! Emiko came on a spring Sunday morning with a box of coconut macaroons and a little black book with all their family secrets for the ultimate pavlova.
We were gathered in my kitchen. She read out loud the recipe, giving attention to every detail, her husband Marco was ready to do all that she was explaining and I was frantically writing down every passage, tip, idea, tone of voice and imperceptible movement not to loose a single comma. Eventually in the afternoon, after an international cheese plate, fresh fava bean crostini, a carbonara by the book and some meat to keep us, ehm, light, I managed to taste the real Australian pavlova.
I had already tried to bake the pavlova a few times before, go figure it was my birthday cake last July, but I had no touchstone to understand if I had succeeded or not in my attempt. Well, tasting the real one, in a lazy spring afternoon sitting in my garden, I realized my pavlovas were definitely not even similar to this one: a pavlova is supposed to have a crisp meringue crust and a soft marshmallow centre. You never cease to learn, so…
Very easy to make and bake, the pavlova is delicate and light. Even though I was a survivor of a challenging lunch, I couldn’t help but having still one more slice, the last one, one more, just this strawberry and a dollop of cream… until I saw the end. From a little black book to another, here you can read my notes for Emiko‘s Australian pavlova.
- 6 egg whites
- 200 g fine caster sugar
- 4 tsp cornstarch
- 1 tbs cream of tartar or white vinegar
- 1 tbs vanilla essence
- 200 ml cream
- 250 g fresh fruit
- Preheat oven to 200°C.
- Line a baking tray with parchment paper and dust it with a teaspoon of cornstarch, in order to prevent the meringue from sticking to the paper.
- Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.
- Add one tablespoon of sugar after the other, keeping on whipping with the electric beater.
- When you come to the last tablespoon of sugar, add the remaining 3 teaspoons of cornstarch and the tablespoon of cream of tartar. The meringue should look glossy, thick and white.
- At the very end, fold in the vanilla essence.
- Spoon the meringue onto the baking tray: level it with the back of a spoon and make a circle about 20 cm in diameter and at least 8 cm thick, with a slight dip in the middle.
- Lower the oven to 125°C and bake for about 1 hour and 15′ until the pavlova is dry to the touch.
- Turn the oven off and leave the meringue in the oven with door ajar until completely cool down.
- Remove the meringue from the parchment paper and transfer it to a serving plate.
- Whip the cream and spoon it onto the top of the meringue.
- Top with fresh fruit and serve immediately.
Which kind of fruit can I use to decorate the pavlova?
The sweet and crisp meringue is beautifully paired with the fresh whipped cream, traditionally unsweetened to smooth down the sugary side. You should therefore use lightly sour fruit: family pavlovas are decorated with strawberries and kiwi or peach, mango and passion fruit. Lately, especially in restaurants and especially with mini pavlovas, you can find fresh berries as well, such as raspberries, which not only provide the right sour twist to the dessert but also allow a refined and beautiful decoration.
Some tips to bake the perfect pavlova.
- Separate the egg whites from the yolks when they are cold, then let the egg whites at room temperature, so that you can beat them easily.
- Beat the egg whites in a glass or metal bowl.
- Make sure you have everything ready before you start to beat the egg whites, because as soon as you have finished to beat them you should transfer the meringue into the oven.
- Cream of tartar or white vinegar are used to stabilize the egg whites in order to have a crisp crust and a marshmallow centre. Cream of tartar is tasteless, so perfect to use. If you use the vinegar, prefer white vinegar instead of white wine vinegar, it is more delicate.