Pavolva is a kiwi favourite in summer time…..as is arguing with an Australians about who invented this delicious dessert (according to Wikipedia research has proven that New Zealand is the creator). With it being that time of year, a friend of mine rang me on Christmas Eve asking for some last minute tips on ensuring her Pavolva would be a success for Christmas Day.
First off, let’s just clarify the difference between a Pavolva and Meringue.
Meringue is the firm crunchy confectionery made from egg white and sugar, cooked until dry. Meringues can include other ingredients such as ground nuts or flavourings such as coffee. They can be individually sized or made in large thin rounds and layered with fillings to make an elaborate dessert. Meringues have been made in France since around 1700.
Pavolva is a large dessert with a crispy crust and a marshmallowy centre. It is decorated with whipped cream and seasonal fruit. Pavolvas are relatively new in terms of culinary history – they originated in New Zealand and Australia in the last century.
Below I have outline the ‘rules’ that in my humble opinion, must be followed if you want half a chance of making a good pavolva. The ‘tips’ are just other things I’ve learnt that you might want to take into consideration.
Rule number 1: Know your oven! Forget the dial on the front that supposedly tells you the temperature. Buy an oven thermometer. The recipe I use (Edmonds Cookbook) says to heat the oven to 180oC and reduce to 100oC when you put the Pavolva in. It may seem fussy, but it’s worth a practise run with your newly purchased thermometer to see what to turn the dial to, to reduce the temperature to 100. You can’t open the oven once the Pavolva goes in and if your oven is like mine, it’s hard to see inside with the door closed. Place your Pavolva on the middle-low shelf for best results
Rule number 2: Don’t use a plastic bowl. It attracts fat; Fat will stop your egg white from foaming. Even when using glass, copper or metal, make sure that there is NO fat on the sides of bowl, or on the spatula.
Rule number 3: Your eggs should be at room temperature. If they aren’t, heat them up in a little bowl of warm water. They need to be at room temperature in order to maximise their ability to incorporate air when whipped. You can see in this photo that I’ve got the egg white in a container warming….yes, I forgot to take them out of the fridge. They are only in a container because I’d made a cake slice ealier that only needed egg yolks. If you’re working with ‘whole’ eggs, pop the entire egg into the luke warm water.
Rule number 4: DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN. When the pavolva is baked, turn off the oven and walk away. Leave it alone until the oven is cooled (ideally over night).
Tip number 1: When using recipes where the egg whites are beaten before the sugar is added, beat the eggs until they form stiff glossy peaks. However, take care not to over beat the egg white – they will look dry. The recipe I use says to ‘beat egg white and sugar together’. I beat the egg whites first, then add the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time.
Tip number 2: Over beaten egg whites will not incorporate the sugar correctly, causing it to melt during cooking and the pavolva to weep.
Tip number 3: Always use caster sugar (super fine).
Tip number 4: Overcooking – not humidity – will cause your pavolva to bead while under-cooking will make it weep. However, on humid days sugar may absorb more moisture and if the pavolva is not cooked sufficiently, it may be more prone to weeping.
Tip number 5: Once made, do not dilly dally getting the pavolva into the oven. (i.e make sure your oven is at the right temperature before starting).
Tip number 6: Trace around a cake tin onto the baking paper to provide a guide for size. Turn the paper over so that the ink is on the other side. Pavolvas will not rise, so what ever size/height you build it to is what is will come out as.
Tip number 7: Most pavolvas will crack in the cooling process, or sink a bit in the middle. Don’t worry……it’s nothing a bit of whipped cream and fresh fruit can’t cover up….no one will know!
Tip number 8: Adding a pinch of cream of tartar (1/2 tsp per 4-6 eggs) will stabilise the foam of the beaten egg white and help with the structural support of the pavolva while cooking.
Tip number 9: Use a little of the mixture to hold down the baking paper so it doesn’t move when building up your pavolva on the baking tray.
Tip number 10: Find a recipe that you like that uses up the egg yolks…waste not want not.
Well, that’s all I can think of for now. This pavolva has just finished baking and is now cooling in the oven….nom, nom, nom……can’t wait to smother it with whipped cream and fresh strawberries and blue berries……