Whip up the per­fect pavlova.

It’s an iconic Aussie dessert, but it can end in dis­as­ter. Here's how to make a mag­nif­i­cent meringue

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - MATT PRE­STON

We all love a pav. The meringue, crunchy on the out­side, soft and slightly chewy on the in­side, the freshly whipped cream and the tum­bling of fruit over the en­tire, glo­ri­ous mess.

How­ever, things can so eas­ily go wrong when mak­ing a meringue.

It should be sim­ple. Just add 55g caster sugar for ev­ery egg­white you whip. In fact, the dif­fer­ence be­tween suc­cess and fail­ure lies in guard­ing against th­ese four nat­u­ral en­e­mies of the pavlova.

ALIEN MAT­TER IS NO YOLK

En­emy #1: Un­wanted fat or a lit­tle bit of egg yolk may stop your egg­whites whip­ping prop­erly, so be care­ful when sep­a­rat­ing your eggs. Don’t let any yolk get in with the whites or it could com­pro­mise your whip.

Cold eggs sep­a­rate more eas­ily, so use eggs straight out of the fridge. Al­low them come to room tem­per­a­ture, cov­ered, be­fore whip­ping, though, be­cause room tem­per­a­ture eggs whip up bet­ter as they find it eas­ier to in­cor­po­rate air.

Also, be sure to use clean uten­sils and a clean bowl. They should be ab­so­lutely dry.

Fat is harder to re­move from plas­tic bowls, so guard against this by whip­ping egg­whites in metal, glass or ce­ramic bowls rather than plas­tic.

Wip­ing your bowl with vinegar is an­other pre­cau­tion against un­wanted alien in­cur­sions and to re­move hid­den fat residues. The acid will ac­tu­ally help sta­bilise your whipped whites too. That’s why we add cream of tar­tar to our pavlova recipes. If you use a lit­tle more vinegar in the meringue, you’ll en­cour­age a soft cen­tre and a crisp shell.

Adding corn­flour has the same re­sult, but ru­ins the pav by mak­ing it floury. Yuck! Lots of recipes will rec­om­mend this, but please don’t do it.

THE SWEET STRIFE

En­emy #2: Two ma­jor is­sues can oc­cur with the in­cor­po­ra­tion of the sugar. If you don’t beat it into the egg­whites for long enough, the meringue can be grainy. Re­mem­ber that caster sugar dis­solves more eas­ily than gran­u­lated sugar as the crys­tals are smaller.

Add sugar lit­tle by lit­tle as this will help it in­cor­po­rate more quickly with­out the risk of over­whip­ping your meringue. Check on the in­cor­po­ra­tion of the sugar by rub­bing the meringue be­tween your thumb and fore­fin­ger to check that there is no grain­i­ness.

Once the sugar is in­cor­po­rated, you want a rich, thick, glossy, sta­ble, hard-peak­ing foam. It’s the sort of foam in which your beat­ers leave a rib­bony trail.

An­other don’t? If you add the sugar too slowly, the meringue mix­ture will be­come too fluffy and the tex­ture of the pavlova will end up be­ing too aer­ated.

WHIP IT GOOD (NOT TOO GOOD)

En­emy # 3: If you over­whip your egg­whites, you risk mak­ing them too firm and they may lose their mois­ture. This will af­fect the meringue’s crisp­ness, as well as mak­ing it more likely to col­lapse or weep beads of sugar.

So start whisk­ing the egg­whites on a slow speed to form soft peaks, then speed up the mixer only when the sugar is added.

If you over­whip the mix­ture af­ter adding the sugar, your meringue may crack. Over­whipped egg­whites look like they are cur­dled and can­not be res­cued, so be­ware.

A soft peak is one that peaks but its tip softly col­lapses down on it­self. We want a firm peak for a fin­ished pavlova meringue, which is one that stays stand­ing proud.

KEEP IT DRY AS A BONE

En­emy #4: Mois­ture is the deadly en­emy of meringues. It can draw the sugar out of the meringue, leav­ing it cry­ing sweet sugar tears. The se­cret to a good, crisp pavlova is in the dry­ing of the meringue af­ter cook­ing.

If there is a lot of mois­ture in the air, whether from hu­mid­ity or even other cook­ing you are do­ing in the kitchen, you will have prob­lems. That’s why the “Pavlova Nazi” in me in­sists on no boil­ing saucepans dur­ing pav time. There is also an old wives’ tale that older egg­whites make a more sta­ble meringue, which could be be­cause they have lost some of their mois­ture.

When the meringue is cooked, turn off the oven, leave the door ajar and let it fully dry out for a nice, crisp shell.

SH, IT’S A SE­CRET

For a good-look­ing meringue, trace a cir­cle on the un­der­side of your bak­ing pa­per to act as a tem­plate. Se­cure the pa­per to the bak­ing tray with lit­tle globs of meringue in each cor­ner and rub the bak­ing pa­per with some co­conut oil to grease it.

When you have dol­loped the meringue onto the pa­per, pat it down with the back of a wooden spoon and cre­ate swirls around the edge with the back of a tea­spoon. I like my pav to bulge at the sides, but if you want it more up­right, use a pal­ette knife to sweep up­wards around the edges. This is an edited ex­tract from The Sim­ple Se­crets To Cook­ing Ev­ery­thing Bet­ter

Choco­late swirl pavlova with spiced maple pears. For recipe, see de­li­cious.com.au

MATT PRE­STON

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