pavlovaAustralia Day is just around the corner.  I always enjoy celebrating a holiday with baking, so for this holiday nothing would be more appropriate than to whip up some national goodies.  Unfortunately, there are only a small handful of baked treats that Australia can claim (and some really are ‘owned’ by our friendly neighbours to the east).  Nonetheless, when I think of Australia, I think of:

1. Pavlova
2. Lamingtons
3. Pumpkin Scones

These will adorn any of my national holiday celebrations.

{ Pavlova }

It is said that the Pavlova was invented to commemorate visiting Russian Ballerina, Anna Pavlova, to Australia and New Zealand in the 1920s.

While Australia often lays claim to this marshmallow-ey light dessert, recipes for Pavlova can be found in New Zealand a few years ahead of Australia.  Whichever way, this light meringue base, topped with fresh tropical fruit and cream, is a wonderful dessert and perfect end to any meal – in particular, an Australia Day BBQ! 

{ Pavlova ‘how to’ }

The key to the right consistency of the Pavlova meringue is vinegar and cornflour.  This ensures that the outside is lovely and crisp, while the centre has a creamy marshmallow texture.  The meringue base is made by beating egg whites to firm, stiff peaks then adding sugar very gradually to create a glossy texture.  Vinegar and cornflour is then added as the final step.  The mixture is piled high and baked in a slow oven. 

* Ingredients *

4 egg whites, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
Pinch salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons corn flour
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

* Directions *

Preheat oven to 150 C (300 F).  Line a baking tray with parchment paper.  Trace out a circle around 20cm (8 inches) in diameter.  Turn the paper over so the pencil mark is on the underside.  Set aside.

Whip the egg whites together with cream of tartar and salt until foamy.  Gradually add the sugar and whip until mixture reaches stiff peaks.  Then add the cornstarch, vinegar, and vanilla and continue whipping until smooth and glossy.  This should take about 10 minutes in total.

Mound the meringue into the centre of the prepared circle.  Using a silicon spatula, smooth out the mixture to fill the circle.  Leave a slight dent in the centre so the cream and fruit can be piled up.

Bake for around 1 hour 30 to 1 hour 40 minutes. Turn off oven and leave the meringue to cool.  You can leave overnight.

When ready to serve the Pavlova, top with whipped cream and fresh fruit as desired.  Enjoy!

{ A few tips … }

1. Whenever working with egg whites, ensure all your equipment is completely spotless – bowls, beaters, silicon scrapers etc.  Any fat or yolk trace will inhibit the egg whites reaching full volume and impact the outcome of the recipe – trust me, I have been there before!
2. Pavlova is traditionally served as a single serving.  This is perfect to end an informal meal. However, consider creating smaller, individual sized portions are ideal to finish a more elegant dinner party.  Or you can create multiple layers of Pavlova and fill each layer with fruit and cream to make a multi-layer cake.
3. Also consider flavours other than the traditional vanilla for your Pavlova.  For example, add cocoa to the finished meringue for a chocolate Pavlova.  You do not have to limit your toppings to cream and fresh fruit.  Play around with flavours such as chocolate and caramel as well as crushed nuts for a totally different dessert experience.