Well, here we go again. It’s Christmas! This year I am hosting the festivities and was given the challenge to make a gluten-free dinner for a guest that has a medical reason for eating gluten-free. Making a gluten-free main course is easy, I’ll be making sous vide leg of lamb, roasted veggies and some type of potato dish. Dessert is a different story. Of course, I want my guest to enjoy a beautiful dessert, so I did a little research and discovered Pavlova!
A pavlova (or affectionately known as a PAV in Australia) is a dessert that is made with egg whites, caster sugar (aka superfine or baker’s sugar) and cream of tartar. Yes, just three ingredients to make a beautiful meringue. A Pavlova has a delightfully crunchy outer shell, and a soft, moist marshmallow-like center. It’s always topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit. I stepped up my whipped cream and added cardamom to it. Cardamom has a citrusy, floral, minty flavor that is terrific in whipped cream and excellent for the pavlova. This will be a perfect addition to our holiday dinner.
Pavlova has an interesting history. First off, Pavola is named after a ballerina from Russia in the 1920’s. It is said that this dessert is light enough for even a “ballerina” to eat. The other notable piece of Pavola history is there has been an ongoing feud between Australia and New Zealand. Both countries claim that they invented the PAV. The Wikipedia article is quite humorous to read as both counties site reasons for why they should be the country that invented the delightful dessert. You can decide for yourself, but I am partial to Australia. Either way, both countries claim it to be their national dessert and I’m ok with that!
Making a pavlova took a little trial and error for me. I’ll try and explain it to you in detail on how to make a perfect PAV. I made the mistakes for you (you are welcome) so follow along and your PAV will turn out great too! The biggest challenge for me was patience. It will pay off if you take your time.
Here are some bullet points on making Pavlova.
- Since the main ingredient in Pavlova is egg whites, you want to take special care with them.
- Use the freshest eggs that you can find.
- When you separate the eggs, use 3 bowls. One for dropping the egg yolk in, one for the egg whites and the mixing bowl. It is very important not even to have a speck of egg yolk in the egg white. The fat in the yolk will prevent the whites from getting any volume. So after the white is separated, place it in the mixing bowl. This way if you get any yolk in the white, you only need to throw out the one egg. Save the yolks and try making my raspberry curd. It would be yummy to serve with the PAV.
- Bring the eggs to room temperature before whipping. Room temperature eggs will have more volume when beaten.
- Make sure your bowls are ultra clean and free of any traces of oil. Only use glass, metal or ceramic bowls. Plastic bowls may have trace amounts of residual oil. Again, fat (oil) and egg whites don’t mix.
- When making the meringue (this is very important) with you stand or hand mixer, start slow and gradually turn up speed to no more than medium. This is one thing you need to be patient with. It can take 5-10 minutes to form perfect stiff peaks (see picture below). If you beat too fast you will “deflate” the egg whites and your PAV will collapse (see the last picture).
- The recipe calls for superfine or caster sugar. If you don’t have it or can’t find it at the store, don’t fret. (You really need the superfine sugar as it dissolves better in the egg whites). Just place 1 cup + 2 tablespoons of sugar in a blender or food processor and pulse until the texture is like fine sand (about 30 seconds).
- When adding the sugar, it’s very important to add it 1 tablespoon at a time. I counted to 5 between each addition. Once all the sugar is added. Stop the mixing process.
- Make sure you have parchment paper or a Silpat liner underneath the PAV. This will make it easier to remove. If you are using parchment you can trace a plate as a guide for a circle if you wish. I’m good at eyeballing something and actually prefer a bit of imperfection so I didn’t do it!
- When making meringue, make sure the day is dry. The lower the humidity the better. Meringues don’t like moisture so I’d skip making this on a rainy day. Other tips, don’t be making soup or anything that adds moisture to the air. Sounds crazy, but trust me on this one.
- Plan ahead for making a PAV. The cook time is 1 1/2 hours + cooling in the oven for at least an hour. It’s perfectly ok to make this before you go to bed and let it cool overnight in the oven.
- Pavlovas need to cool slowly. If this step is rushed your PAV will crack. So don’t open your oven during the cooling process. In fact, don’t open your oven throughout the cooking process either. Just turn the light on in the oven if you are curious what it looks like.
- Take special care when transferring the PAV to your serving plate. Carefully loosen it otherwise you will break it (remember the yummy crispy outer shell). I used 2 spatulas to gently move it.
- When making the whipped cream, make sure your heavy whipping cream is really, really cold. It makes for a better-whipped cream. In fact, I even put my mixing bowl in the refrigerator to chill it down as well! Maybe overkill but I take my whipped cream very seriously!
- In Australia, they use all kinds of tropical fruit on their PAV’s. In Colorado, we don’t have that luxury so just use any type of fruit that you like. I used starfruit, kiwis, and raspberries. A good combination for a Christmas dessert!
I hope these tips help and that you are not intimidated by making the Pavlova with Cardamom Cream. It’s certainly one of the best desserts that I have ever made. I can’t wait to make it again for my guests!
Merry Christmas and ENJOY!
Pavlova with Cardamom Cream
For the Pavlova
- 4 egg whites
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 cup superfine (caster) sugar
For the Cardamom Cream
- 1 1/2 cups cold heavy whipping cream
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- what ever fruit your little heart desires
To Make the Meringue
- Carefully separate the egg whites from the yolks making sure no yolks are in the whites. Place in the mixing bowl with the cream of tartar.
- With a stand mixer or a hand-held mixer, turn to low speed begin mixing the egg whites. Gradually increase the speed to no more than medium until stiff peaks form. Approximately 5-10 minutes.
- Once stiff peaks have formed, add the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time. Count to 5 before adding more sugar. Once all the sugar is incorporated, turn off the mixer.
- The mixture will be glossy and very sticky.
- Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat liner. Scoop out all the meringue with a spatula in the middle of the pan. Gently push out the edges to form a circle. You want to keep it somewhat compact (about 8-9 inches diameter) With these dimensions there will be some height to your Pavlova.
- Bake in a preheated 200-degree oven for 1 1/2 hours. Turn off the oven and let cool for at least one hour up to overnight. Do not peak in the oven. Just let it cool slowly.
- Once the Pavlova has cooled completely, carefully loosen it with a spatula and transfer to a serving dish. I used 2 spatulas to lift mine carefully.
To Make the Cardamom Cream
- In a stand mixer bowl or handheld mixer with a bowl add the cream, sugar, cardamom, and vanilla.
- Start slow (to avoid splashing) and turn the speed up to high. Mix until stiff peaks form.
- This can be made up to 24 hours in advance. Just store in an airtight container and place in the refrigerator.
To Assemble the Pavlova
- First off, don't assemble your Pavlova until you are ready to serve.
- When you are ready to serve the PAV, top with the cardamom cream and load it up with the fruit that you choose to use.