So, today is the first day of December. I can officially talk about Christmas without people rolling their eyes at me and groaning. While I love Christmas , I have to admit, I’m not one to really get into the decorating side of it. Our Christmas tree is a 30cm 3D wooden puzzle with jingly bells and we haven’t even set it up yet. I did see the cutest little real tree the other day, but I couldn’t justify buying it, because we won’t even be in London for Christmas or the days leading up to it. We’ll be in Australia soaking up the sunshine and warmth. I can’t wait!
Christmas in Australia is nothing like Christmas in the Northern Hemisphere. While we do get bombarded with winter-themed decorations and snowy scenes on our Christmas cards, I think most Aussies view these as a fantasy world rather than the real Christmas. The reality is that you’re likely to be sweltering on Christmas Day and you’ll just want to sit around eating seafood and pavlova and drinking cold beer.
And so today I bring you an Australian Christmas classic, the pavlova, in wreath form for added Christmas-ness. While it’s pretty much been decided that pavlovas were created in New Zealand (big bone of contention there), it still remains our national dessert in Australia. Soft, marshmallow centre, crisp meringue exterior, topped with homemade whipped cream and whatever fresh fruit your heart desires. It’s so light and airy, but so full of flavour. Can you see why it’s the perfect dessert on a hot summer day?
I have to admit that I’ve never been a massive pavlova fan. Call me unpatriotic, but meringue isn’t really my thing, so I’d never made one before. This wreath looked so pretty and Christmassy though, that I just had to give it a go. And you know what? I discovered that I actually kinda like pavlova. The marshmallowy centre is much better than a traditional hard meringue, and homemade whipped cream makes everything taste better. Add some raspberries and you’ve got yourself a pretty damn tasty dessert.
Now, I understand it may be weird to make a pavlova for a Northern Hemisphere Christmas, but I made one in London, where the weather was 10°C last weekend and I didn’t find it the slightest bit strange, so go ahead and give it a try. Bring some Aussie to your Christmas! If you can’t find fresh raspberries, pomegranates are in season at the moment. You can try any combination of red and green fruit really. Or if you’re avoiding the Christmas theme, pick a different coloured fruit, whatever takes your fancy.
Prep Time: 20 minutes + cooling time (approx. 1 hour 30 minutes)
Cooking Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
4 egg whites
1 cup + 1 tbsp caster sugar, divided
1 tbsp cornflour
1 tsp white vinegar
1 cup double cream
250g fresh raspberries, divided
1 tbsp water
A few mint leaves, to decorate
- Preheat oven to 130°C/250°F/Gas Mark ½. Using a ruler or compass and a pencil, draw a 23cm diameter circle on a piece of baking paper. Inside this circle, draw a 13cm diameter circle. Turn baking paper, so pencil side faces down, and place on a large baking tray (I found my round pizza tray was the perfect size).
- In a large bowl, beat egg whites with an electric mixer on high, until stiff peaks form, about 5-7 minutes. Add 1 cup of the caster sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat until mixture becomes glossy and sugar is completely dissolved. You can test this by rubbing a bit of mixture between your fingers. If it feels grainy, continue mixing a little while longer then test again. Add cornflour and white vinegar and beat for another minute, until just combined.
- Spoon mixture into a large ziploc bag and snip off about 2cm from one corner. Using the circles to guide you, pipe mixture onto baking paper to form a wreath. Use a spatula to smooth away any holes and gaps. Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes, until shell appears hard. Turn off heat and leave pavlova to cool in the oven with the door closed for 45 minutes. Open oven door slightly and leave pavlova to cool completely.
- Remove pavlova from oven and set onto serving plate. If you are not serving straight away, store in an airtight container. Do not decorate pavlova until just before you are serving it, as it will start to collapse from the weight of the cream and fruit.
- When ready to serve, decorate the pavlova. Pour cream into a medium bowl and beat with an electric mixer, until cream is whipped, about 7-8 minutes. Use a spatula to spread whipped cream on top of pavlova, then arrange half the raspberries on top.
- Add the remaining raspberries to a small bowl, with remaining 1 tbsp caster sugar and 1 tbsp water. Use a wooden spoon to mash berries into a basic raspberry sauce. Spoon raspberry sauce onto pavlova, then sprinkle torn mint leaves on top. Serve immediately.
Recipe adapted from Taste.com.au Magazine, December 2014 edition.