Today was a perfect day. It began with sipping my morning coffee while browsing though the Sunday paper, the whole time wresteling with Thea for a portion of my Birthday almond croissant. Of course she won, stuffing fistfuls of the nutty, flaky pastry into her mouth with complete abandon and glee.
The breakfast battle over, I donned my kitchen apron and ran through my prep list for lunch. Moreton bay bugs with garlic and parsley butter, mango and coriander marinated prawns, chargrilled squid and cannellini bean salad, homemade sourdough crumbs and herb topped mussels and buffalo mozzarella and tomato salad. Oh and a huge, billowy, two tiered pavlova, with more cream than necessary and fresh summer berries.
Being a celebratory day, Pimm’s was the aperitif of choice, which after quaffing, we all sat down to eat. Since we were all family, there was no ceremonious behaviour around the table and platters of seafood were passed up and down, back and forth, as everyone dug in and filled their plates. Even Thea, seated at at the head of the table in her high chair, sat still for a portion of the meal, munching on this and that, sometimes sneakily feeding what she didn’t like to the dog. (It always makes me chuckle how much she delights in doing this, as I’m sure must he!)
The main course finished, it was time for dessert. A Cinderella skirt size pavlova, decked out in whipped cream, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries was served. It was wonderful to actually sit down and be able to savour one of my own meringues. I have cooked so many this summer, and thankfully, the practice has paid off. It was delicious. And devoured. No one complained about the larger than average portion sizes of crunchy, creamy, light, soft, sweet and chewy final course and yes please to seconds. A truly perfect way to finish a long birthday lunch.
The following is enough to make a beautiful two tiered pavlova. Adjust accordingly.
- 8 egg whites (320ml)
- 450g caster sugar
- 2 tsp white vinegar
- 4 tsp cornflour
Pre heat the oven to 200C.
Start by separating eight eggs. It’s a really good idea to measure the egg whites out exactly. One egg white is approximately 40ml. When you have separated the amount needed, pour into the bowl of a free standing mixer and begin to whisk with a whisk attachment. Start with a slow speed for a few minutes and then increase to high.
Whisk the whites until they are stiff, in that they will hold a soft peak, then begin to add the sugar, little by little.
When all the sugar is incorporated, stop the mixer. The mixture should be beautifully glossy. Add the vinegar and sift in the cornflour and gently fold in with 10 slow turns of the whisk.
Now, with haste, pile the mixture within the circle, or circles, that you have drawn on greaseproof paper lining a baking tray, or trays. Put the tray(s) into the preheated oven and immediately turn down the oven to 100C.
Cook for about 1 hour and then turn the oven off, prop the oven door ajar and leave the pavlova to cool.
Pavlova making top tips
*Do make sure that the bowl and whisk that you will be whisking the egg whites with are free from grease
*Do make sure your eggs are fresh and at room temperature. If you do get any yolk in your whites as you are separating them, use half and empty egg shell to retrieve it. The shell attracts the yolk. Clever! Same goes for any bits of shell.
*Start by whisking the whites slowly, then increase the speed
*When the whites are stiff, slowly add the sugar in increments over 10 minutes, whisking constantly
*In between whisking in the sugar, line a tray with baking paper and trace a circle (or several circles) on it so you know where to pile the meringue mix
*When you have added all the sugar, stop whisking, add the vinegar and corn flour and then whisk in slowly with about 10 turns of the whisk. As soon as you have done this, speed is of the essence.
*Pile the meringue onto the prepared baking sheet and pop into an oven preheated to 200 degrees. As soon as you close the door, turn the temperature down to 100 degrees. Cook for about one hour until the outside is firm.
*Leave the pavlova to cool in the oven (overnight) by turning the oven off and propping the door ajar with an oven mitt or something similar
*Enjoy. With whatever fruit is in season and more cream then necessary.