For the uninitiated Pavolva is a sort of meringue, topped with whipped cream and fruit. What makes a Pav different from a meringue nest is the texture. You include white wine vinegar and cornflour (cornstarch) in the mixture and this is what makes it a Pav, soft and chewy and sticky on the inside, cracked and lovely on the outside. It is delicious. Pav is not the same as meringue and should not (in my view!) be confused with meringue, although it often is.
When you bite into a Pav it should be crispy and dry on the outside and soft as marshmallow within, a liberal covering of whipped cream and some delicious seasonal fruit, what could be a better thing to eat.
It is believed that Pavlova was named after the famous ballet dancer Anna Pavlova when she visited New Zealand in the 1920's. It is considered to be the quintessential Australian and New Zealand dessert. In fact here you can see the Australian Pav in the most amazing form - go all the way down the post!
I am sure that you can make a Pav that will be wonderful whatever recipe you use, just make sure to mix together the vinegar and cornflour and add to the mix and just go for it!
A couple of notes about making a Pav. I only ever use golden caster sugar in all my baking as it is less refined than white caster sugar. This is why my Pineapple Pav (see below) is a more golden colour. If you use the same sugar, you will get this colour, if you want a whiter Pav use white sugar. It is not this colour because it has been overcooked. The Berry Pav (above) was very unusually for me made with white sugar.
Do not over or under whip the egg whites, you want them to be soft, light, fluffy and creamy looking. They should not look dry or overly stiff, if you see the photo above of the mixture that is how it should look when the sugar has been added in stages - I just add it in a spoon at a time. Glossy is what you want with peaks that stand up alone with a little curl on the top, not sloppy, but not hard either.
If you have the wrist strength you can make this by hand with a whisk. Until last year when I inherited my stand mixer I always used an electric hand whisk and that worked really well. The stand mixer makes adding the sugar easier as you have both hands free, but it is not necessary by any means. My food processor (Magimix) came with an egg whisking blade, I tried to make Pav in it. It does not work as you need to get lots of air in and the processor bowl just does not allow the air to get in so it doesn't work. It would probably be good for some things, but not this. For the same reason, if your stand mixer has a splash guard, remove this before making your Pav to allow the maximum amount of air in.
Some people I have seen say that you should cook your Pav on aluminium foil and that if it is cooked properly it will just come away from the foil. I totally disagree with this. It might work for plain meringues, but I cannot say as I never make them, but it does not work for Pav. I always use silicone baking paper to line my baking tray and it always works a treat for me, just comes straight off. Do not use greaseproof paper, you want baking paper. I have a silpat (silicone baking mat), but I rarely use it and have never used it for a Pav, so that might work, but I cannot say. Just please do not use foil as it is a nightmare to get off the bottom and tastes nasty if you eat a bit by mistake!
Once you have cooked your Pav turn off the oven and leave it in there with the door closed until the oven is totally cool - I would make it either early in the morning and take it out of the oven in the evening, or at night and take it out in the morning. You can make the meringue(ish!) part a few days before you need it as long as you keep it dry and cool. Do not refrigerate - under any circumstance, I am as strict about this as the not using foil!!! I simply put mine on a large platter and cover loosely with cling film - saran wrap - and leave it in my laundry room out of the way until I need it.
There are lots more instructions from me, and also a step by step guide of how to make a Pav in my previous post here.
Once you add the cream and fruit eat ASAP, although leftovers can be kept in the fridge until the next day when they will be gooey and sticky and delicious, but not the same as a freshly put together Pav. If you are taking a Pav to a party take all the parts and then assemble at the last minute. It makes a great sharing or party dessert for everyone to join in eating.
My favourite toppings are strawberries and blueberries or pineapple and stem ginger, but you can put any fruit you like on top, some people add chocolate - which strangely for a chocoholic such as me I have never done! Whatever you like goes really. Some other suggestions are pears and ginger, mixed berries, tropical fruits - as I had for my last birthday with a 0 on the end.
Of course this does not work for those who are avoiding sugar, eggs or dairy, but if you are OK with all of those, but are gluten free, this is a great dessert as it is naturally GF and you can eat as much as you like, no explanations needed to anyone else and no need for you to have something different from everyone else. That is one of the other reasons that I love this for parties and gatherings.
I hope that you will have a go at making one yourself and that you will love it as much as I do! If you have any trouble making it, let me know and if there are lots more questions I will try and do an Q and A on the subject. It really is easy though - truly!!!!
I think that must just about cover it for Pavlova! I don't think that there is anything else I can add to this already very long, but hopefully informative, post. Go bake. Now!