There are so many different things you can do with strawberries in the kitchen. Using soft, marshmallow meringue made from egg white, this simple and easy dessert recipe will go down a treat with the whole family.
In a pavlova recipe, the ingredients are few and simple: eggs, sugar, vanilla, fresh cream and a couple of stabilisers… oh, and plenty of strawberries! As many as you can fit on will do nicely. It takes no time at all to prepare and tastes like summer. I cannot get enough of strawberry pavlova.
What is Pavlova?
Pavlova is a type of meringue based dessert that is usually topped with fruit and fresh cream. It is made by beating egg whites to a stiff consistency before adding in sugar, cornflour, an acid such as lemon juice and vanilla extract. The mixture is then carefully shaped, in order to keep it fluffy and baked on a low temperature until it achieves a crispy outer layer. Pavlova is served cold with the chosen fruit topping.
Pavlova originated in either Australia or New Zealand, both countries claim to have invented it. Named after the famous Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova in the 1920s.
Popular around the world, it is usually eaten during summer time, when the fruits are in season. But can be enjoyed at any time of the year.
A popular version in the UK is a strawberry pavlova usually enjoyed during June when strawberries are in season. A similar British dessert based on the ingredients would be Eton Mess, a recipe this Eton mess ice cream is based upon.
The Difference Between Meringue and Pavlova
Meringue comes in varying degrees of crunchiness. Often, when you think of meringue, it is a hard, dry and crunchy throughout. Another name for this harder variety of meringue is a French meringue. Pavlova is another type of meringue that has a softer centre, more like marshmallow, whilst maintaining a crunchy outer layer.
The ingredients in both French meringue and a pavlova meringue are very similar, both use egg whites as the base. However, French meringue usually does not contain cornflour or starch.
The baking time for a French Meringue is also longer than pavlova and is often left in the oven overnight to harden.
Why Use Cornflour and Cream of Tartar for Pavlova?
While the addition of both cornflour (a type of starch) and cream of tartar (a type of acid) aren’t essential and don’t alter the flavour (unless you add too much), they do a lot to help stabilise and strengthen the egg white, prevent it from collapsing and weeping and give the centre that marshmallow like texture.
Adding these ingredients to your pavlova recipe will give you a much more predictable, consistent result and you are much less likely to run into problems when making your own pavlova.
Cornflour helps absorb any excess liquid in your pavlova, so that it doesn’t weep or sweat after baking and it also helps to create that chewy, marshmallow centre that is typical of a pavlova.
The acidity of cream of tartar (or a substitution) will help strengthen and stabilise the egg white. This helps to prevent it being overbeaten by acting as a type of glue for the egg whites.
If you don’t have cream of tartar to hand, replace with lemon juice or white wine vinegar at a 1:1 ratio. Cornflour can be replaced with potato starch if necessary.
Tips for Creating the Best Pavlova
Do not allow any egg yolks in the mixture at all. Having any element of fat in your meringue will prevent the egg whites from whisking up fully. This is because is coats the proteins found in the egg whites and prevents them from breaking down to form bubbles, which is what makes your whisked egg whites nice and fluffy.
Don’t use a plastic bowl for whisking. Plastic bowls in your kitchen cupboard are a great tool to have and very useful. However, over time you will find that the plastic builds up a film of oil which is very hard to remove. This oil is a source of fat residue, that will ruin your meringue. Use a very clean glass, metal or ceramic bowl for whisking.
Golden caster sugar in pavlova imparts a lovely caramel taste to the meringue and gives it a golden hue. However, you can use regular caster sugar if you’d prefer.
Add your sugar gradually. Don’t throw the sugar in all at once, add it gradually while the mixture is still being whisked at a slightly slower speed.
Use older eggs. Pavlova is a recipe that calls for the use of older eggs. Very fresh eggs are harder to beat and will take longer to reach the desired consistency. However, they can still be used, so don’t feel you have to wait for your eggs to age before making a pavlova.
The stages of whisking. Initially, before adding the sugar and other ingredients, your egg whites should achieve a soft peek consistency. When you lift the whisk, the egg white will form a peak that will hold for a moment before folding over and collapsing on itself. After you have added your other ingredients, continue to whisk to achieve a stiff peak consistency. For stiff peaks, the egg will hold its shape without folding over.
Don’t overbeat your eggs. Overbeaten egg white will begin to look like clumpy shaving foam and then collapse. Stop whisking when you have reached the desired stiff peak consistency. If you do happen to overbeat your eggs, sometimes adding another egg white and beating again will usually help to solve the problem. Adjust the other ingredients accordingly.
With this pavlova recipe you can make one large meringue or make individual mini pavlovas, just be sure to give them space on the baking tray so they don’t spread and become one.
Don’t open the oven door while your meringue is cooking. The sudden blast of cooler air from the room could cause your pavlova meringue to crack and collapse. While this won’t ruin its flavour, it won’t look as pretty when you serve it.
When you have finished cooking, turn off the oven and leave the pavlova in there to cool, this helps to prevent the shell from cracking. Upon hitting the cooler temperature outside of an oven, the delicate outer layer of a pavlova will quickly crack and collapse. Leaving it in the oven will keep it baking gradually and allow it to get cool much more slowly, which will help to harden the outer layer. If you don’t have time, don’t worry, it won’t ruin the flavour, just allow it to cool either way before decorating, otherwise your cream will get runny.
Decorate your pavlova just before serving. Adding the cream and fruit too soon can make your pavlova a little soggy.
Don’t throw away your egg yolks, save them for another recipe like this raspberry tiramisu. You can also freeze egg yolks in an airtight container for up to 4 months.
Different Fruit for Pavlova
As well as strawberries there is a whole array of other fruit you can use to top your pavlova. Why not try:
- Passion Fruit Pulp
Yes, whilst they are both similar using egg whites as the base, pavlova tends to be softer in the middle whilst maintaining a crunchier outer layer. Meringue is harder all the way through.
Ideally, you should decorate your pavlova immediately before serving. This way everything is as fresh a possible and it prevents the pavlova going soggy. Feel free to prepare all your ingredients beforehand and store in airtight containers in the fridge until you need them.
Pavlova is best eaten on the day it is decorated but will still be edible up to 2 days later as long as you keep it chilled in the fridge.
Once your pavlova has cooled, place it in an airtight container until you’re ready to use it. You can keep it like this for around 2 days.
Strawberry Pavlova Meringue
- 3 Egg Whites Use Medium Eggs
- 175 g Golden Caster Sugar
- 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
- 0.5 tsp Cream of Tartar
- 1 tsp Cornflour
- 150 ml Double Cream
- 400 g Strawberries
- Icing Sugar to Decorate
- Preheat your oven to 120C
- Start by separating your eggs and put the egg whites into a bowl.
- Whisk the whites until they foam up and form soft peaks that will hold their shape for a moment before folding. Use an electric whisk if you have one.
- Add the caster sugar, and vanilla extract gradually whilst you continue to whisk until you reach a hard peak consistency.
- Sprinkle in the cream of tartar and cornflour and whisk until it has combined with the rest of the mixture. Be careful not to overbeat the egg.
- Shape your meringue with a recessed middle (to hold the cream and fruit) onto baking paper on a baking tray and place in the oven.
- Cook for 40 minutes until it begins to harden. Turn the oven off after this time and allow to cool. This helps the meringue retain it's shape, if you can't wait (like me!!) you can remove from the oven sooner but be prepared for the meringue to crack a little. Either way just wait until it's completely cool before the next step.
- Whisk your double cream until it thickens.
- Spread your double cream onto your meringue, carefully, so that you don't crack the shell too much, leaving the outer edge bare.
- Wash and chop your strawberries and arrange them onto your meringue however you like.
- Just before serving sprinkle with some icing sugar….. and enjoy!
Recipe Notes and Guidance
- You can substitute the cream of tartar with white wine vinegar or lemon juice at a ratio of 1:1
- Cornflour can be substituted for potato starch at a ratio of 1:1
- You can use white caster sugar if you’d prefer, it just won’t turn a golden colour.
- Don’t allow any fat to contaminate your whisking bowl, that includes the egg yolks.
- Don’t use a plastic bowl to whisk your egg whites.
- Be careful not to over whisk the egg.
- Try not to open the oven door too much, it will cause your meringue to crack and collapse.
- Try adding different fruit for the topping.
- Save the yolks for another recipe. Egg yolks are freezable.