Summer would not be summer without a celebrating strawberries, and what better way than in the form of a pavlova?
Pavlova is one of my, no, it’s not one of my favourites, it is my favourite dessert to make at home. If you’ve never tried it, you really should. I know the idea of making meringue can put people off, and I get why, I’ve heard cooks and chefs going on and on about how difficult it is, but it’s really not, and that’s coming from someone who is much more of a savoury cook than a baker or dessert maker. And you know, if you really don’t want to make the meringue base, you can always buy it (don’t tell anybody I said that).
My rule, one of my rules, when cooking is that I want maximum flavour for minimum effort, and this really comes into play when I’m making the sweet stuff. Probably because I have to follow the rules and there’s often less room to play around, make a mistake or be spontaneous, so I keep it simple. But I want something terrific at the same time. If I’m going to eat a dessert it has to be well worth the calories. I have to love it, and ohhhh boy, do I love this.
Recipe for Strawberry Pavlova
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 2 hours
Serves 6 to 8
For the Meringue
6 egg whites from large eggs
A squeeze of lemon juice
175gr / 6 oz. Caster sugar
50gr / 1.7 oz. sifted icing sugar
For the Fruit and Cream
400gr / 14 oz. strawberries roughly chopped
500ml / 17.6 fl. oz (UK) / 1 pt. (US) of double cream whipped to stiff peaks
Optional: Some icing sugar and a few drops of vanilla extract
For Strawberry Sauce
150gr / 5oz. strawberries
2 x tsp icing sugar (or to taste)
Optional: A couple of drops of vanilla extract
- For the meringue, heat the oven to 120°C / 250°F and place greaseproof paper on a baking tray.
- Whisk the egg whites with the lemon juice for about a couple of minutes until they form soft peaks.
- Add the caster sugar, one tablespoon at a time, whisking well after each addition for about 10 seconds. When all the caster sugar has been added whisk until the mix is glossy and stiff. Be careful not to over whisk or the mixture will lose its volume and become watery.
- Using a large metal spoon, fold the icing sugar into the mixture. Being gentle keeps the air in your meringue mix.
- Pour the mix onto the middle of your lined baking tray, spread it gently around and make a nest shape by creating a dip in the middle to hold the cream and fruit. Keep this meringue base quite thick.
- Place the meringue in the oven for about 2 hours. This meringue will come out a light caramel colour which I love, but if you want it pure white, bake it at 100°C / 210°F for 3 hours.
- To make the strawberry sauce, simply whizz the strawberries to a purée in a liquidizer, then pass this through a sieve and add the icing sugar. The amount of sugar really depends on how ripe your strawberries are. Strawberries in season will always be sweeter.
- When the meringue is ready, leave it to cool completely, and then move it to your serving plate. I often serve on a big wooden chopping board as it’s easy to transfer from the baking sheet and also my pavlova tends to always be bigger than my serving plates!
- Fill the dip in the “nest” of the meringue with the whipped cream, arrange/sprinkle/tumble the chopped strawberries over the cream and then drizzle over the sauce. This should be done just before serving so that the meringue doesn’t get soggy with the cream.
- Pavlova’s are at their best with summer berries, be creative with what is in season.
- This meringue will give a soft centre with a little bounce.
- The other great fruit topping is passion fruit, but make sure they are ripe.
- If you want to make it lighter, use Greek Yogurt instead of cream. You can use this completely to replace the cream or you can mix it with cream or crème fraiche. You may need to mix your fruits with a little icing sugar to compensate for the acidity in the yogurt though.
- For a super healthy version, don’t use any dairy at all, just fill your pavlova with lots of different fruit. In this case it is best to macerate first. (Macerate = put all fruit in a bowl with about 4 x tsps caster sugar and a squeeze of lemon and leave for about half an hour before serving. This process draws the juices from the fruit and sweetens them)
- Another favourite version for me is with passion fruit, mango and pomegranate. For this, I scoop out 12 passion fruits and pour over the cream, chop the flesh of two mangoes, strew them over then sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of pomegranate seeds over the top. With this passion fruit and mango version, I put about two tablespoons of icing sugar into the cream before I whip it up. This is to balance the acidity in the fresh fruit.