Pavlova, or pav for short, is a great kiwi classic that's often eaten during the festive season, mostly because that's when the best fruit is around! Pavlova is basically a large meringue covered in whipped cream and fruit of your choice. It's not just any ole meringue though. Unlike standard meringues that are crunchy and dry, pavlova is crunchy on the outside but soft and marshmallowy on the inside. This is achieved by using cornflour and vinegar in the meringue mixture. Once it gets to the oven, the egg whites react with the cornflour and vinegar to form a crunchy shell whilst keeping the inside moist and fluffy. Isn't science cool?!
Pavlova is the perfect base for whatever toppings you love. As mentioned it's usually topped with fruit, but you can top it with whatever else you desire. As you know I'm quite the fruit lover, so obviously I went down that route. Berries and cherries are what you normally find on top of a pav, but I wanted to take things up a notch and go tropical. There's a lot of good mangoes around at the moment at reasonable prices so it was a no-brainer that mango would be on here. I wanted something tangy or sour to cut through all the sweetness, so I used some passionfruit topping. You can find this in the dessert section of your supermarket. There's a couple of brands that make it. I chose the one with the least amount of sugar added! Passionfruit tends to be rare and expensive here, but if you have access to fresh passionfruit then definitely use fresh. Of course any tropical fruit like, paw paw, lychee, banana etc will work too. You can use fresh or tinned. If using tinned drain the syrup or else the fruit will slide all over the place.
If you're living a gluten free and/or dairy free lifestyle then this dessert is great for you. There's no flour in this recipe. Cornflour is used which is gluten free. Do check the brand of cornflour that you buy though, as some have other things added in there. The only dairy in this dessert is the whipped cream on top which can easily be subbed with whipped coconut cream. Coconut cream also adds to the tropical vibe so that's an extra bonus. Really, we can all enjoy this dessert!
I highly recommend that you make the pavlova a day in advance as it takes quite long to cool. Just like any meringue, pavlova bakes at a low temperature. Due to it's texture though, it is quite delicate and is susceptible to moisture and temperature changes. For this reason, once the baking time is up, you need to turn the oven off and leave the pav in there until it cools down completely. No opening the door! If you make it the night before, it can cool in the oven over night. It takes a good few hours to cool so don't rush it. Nobody wants melted cream dripping off their pav!
This dessert has a high sugar content, so smaller portions are recommend. It can easily serve up to 16 people so it's great for a party or special gathering. If you don't have a lot of eaters at your home, you can do what I did - decorate half the pav and keep the other half for another day. I'm sure you won't have trouble getting rid of it!
6 egg whites
1 & 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp cornflour (check for gluten free)
1 tsp white vinegar
1 cup cream, whipped (use coconut cream for dairy free version)
1 mango, diced
3 Tbs passionfruit topping
Preheat oven to 130 degrees Celsius (not fan bake). Line a baking tray with baking paper, and draw a 18-20cm circle on it using a plate as a stencil. Set aside.
Place your egg whites in the bowl of your stand mixer. Use a clean glass bowl if you're using a hand mixed. Start whipping the egg whites on medium speed until they become frothy. Gradually add caster sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, while the mixer is on. Once all sugar has been added turn the mixer up to high speed and beat for 10 minutes until all the sugar has dissolved and the meringue is very thick and glossy. Remove the bowl from the mixer and add the cornflour and vinegar. Using the beater from the mixer, by hand, gently fold in those last ingredients until combined. Your meringue is now ready!
Take your bowl over to your baking tray. I like to dot a bit of meringue on the under side of my baking paper so it will stick to the tray. Spoon the rest of your meringue mixture into the circle on the baking paper, making sure the base is covered well. I like to hollow out the middle a bit so it's more bowl shaped. If you like you can smooth the mixture out to create a flat surface or do some swirls if you're feeling fancy.
Place your tray in the preheated oven and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave the pav in there to cool completely without opening the oven door. It's best if you leave it to cool over night. Don’t worry if the pavlova has a few cracks in it – this is completely normal. It's actually a sign that the top is gonna be nice and crunchy! The cracks will be covered with cream, so it will still look pretty anyway.
Once the pav has cooled, you can top it with with your whipped cream and fruit. A sprinkling of toasted coconut and a few sprigs of mint are a nice touch but you can leave it out if you don't have it. Serve immediately. Store any leftovers in the fridge. If you're making this a few days ahead of time, store the pav in a large dry, air-tight container and add the toppings just before serving.