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Monday 7 December 2009

An Australian Sluttery Christmas: Pavlova

Greetings from the colonies.

In the interest of bridging cultural gaps (read: demonstrating how great Australian food is and sort of bragging a little bit about the fact that we get to have a summer Christmas, but at the same time being somewhat jealous of the fact that you get to have a proper traditional Christmas with mulled wine and roasting chestnuts and stuff), and as your resident Australian Domestic Slut, this month I'll be bringing you the very best Aussie Christmas recipes, starting with my old favourite, the pavlova.

Or the pav, as Australia has inevitably nicknamed it.

Pavlova is an Australian classic, and a Christmas staple in my family. I come from a household where pavlova was made one of two ways: we either bought it ready-made from a cake shop, or created a cheat's pseudo-pavlova by topping pre-made meringue nests from the supermarket with whipped cream and strawberries.

When I grew up I was shocked to learn that pavlova is insanely easy to make. Yes, from scratch.

And the best thing is that even though it's super easy, it can look pretty spectacular. Make this for your Christmas dinner guests and they will hail you as some sort of goddess-like baking sorcerer of wonderful and yet somehow frightening power.

You'll need these things:
  • Four egg whites (room temperature)
  • 200 grams of caster sugar
  • A pinch of salt (or not... sometimes I forget the salt and it still turns out fine)
  • Thickened cream/double cream
  • Toppings of your choice (e.g. strawberries, raspberries, passionfruit, kiwifruit, flaked almonds, sliced banana, the still-beating heart of a ginger kitten... whatever blows your hair back)
You'll need to do these things:
  • Take a very clean bowl - any foreign specks of anything will have a nasty effect on the mixture.
  • With an electric beater (or you could use a whisk, if you have MONSTER BICEPS), whisk the four egg whites until they form very soft peaks. Make sure you don't get even the tiniest bit of egg yolk or shell in there - again, nasty effect.
  • With the beaters still going, very slowly add in the caster sugar.
  • Add the pinch of salt. Or not.
  • Beat the hell right out of it until the mixture is totally smooth, with no graininess from the sugar - test a little bit of it between your thumb and forefinger.
  • Line a baking tray with grease-proof kitchen paper (GREASE-PROOF. The waxy kind, not the other kind) and spoon the mixture onto the tray. I usually spread mine out so that it's on big rectangularish shape with blobby peaks all over it, but you might like to do a bunch of little meringue nests, or the traditional round cake-like pavlova. If you're shooting for truly spectacular, try making three or four thinner circles (around 1.5cm deep) using a cake tin as a template, and layer them with whipped cream, sliced strawberries and raspberries. Top with a few extra berries and dust with icing sugar.
  • Bake in a pre-heated oven (around 180 degrees Celsius... to be honest, the numbers on my oven wore off a long time ago, so I just put it on high...ish) for, oh, about 15 to 20 minutes. Again, this is a check-and-see thing: take a look after ten minutes just in case. You want it to be set hard on the outside and a very light golden brownish on top, but with a soft and fluffy centre.
  • Whack on some blobby spoonfuls of whipped cream, or pipe it on if you're feeling fancy.
  • You can stick to traditional pavlova fare (passionfruit, strawberries, banana, kiwifruit, etc), or if you're feeling adventurous you might like to be a bit more creative with your toppings. My favourite combination is strawberries, raspberries and flaked almonds with a light swirl of melted white chocolate on top, but you could try anything, really. Roasted hazelnuts, peach slices with drizzled honey, pears with ginger and dark chocolate, pomegranate, crushed butterscotch, mango, blueberries, crumbled-up oreos... hmm, I could get carried away here. (Ooh! Crushed candy canes!)

Any other ideas?

Flickr image from Yabby's photo stream.


  1. Ooh, yummy! My mum makes a great pavlova, with coffee in the meringue and raspberries & summer fruits on top. I used to get the piss taken though as we called it Paaaavlova (after the Russian ballerina, don't you know). It doesn't look as posh as that one though - more of a deconstructed pavlova - all crumbly and gooey in the middle. *dribbles a bit*

  2. Coffee IN the meringue? Your mum is a frickin' genius! How did she do it, add in granulated coffee with the sugar, or just pour in some black coffee at the end?

  3. (By 'at the end', I obviously mean *before* baking...)

  4. Wow! I want to be a goddess-like baking sorcerer!

  5. Er...I don't know! I'll ask her. I think it might go in at the end and prob contributes to the gooeyness. Doesn't quite have the same texture as normal meringue but I like it!

  6. Alex, this will get you at LEAST ten magical sorcerer points.

    Thanks Kate! I'm trying this next time.

  7. Oh yeah, gotta love the pav. We're having one at our Aussie Christmas doo later today. I love it with Peppermint Slice (the chocolate bar) broken up over it too.


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