Pavlova failures abounded this week. Ugh. Half of these photos are from when I gave up trying to make a meringue that didn't fall and just accepted that I'd wasted, like, 20 eggs making these stupid desserts.
But I'll back up: Pavlova! I love meringues and a pavlova is akin to a large meringue that has a softer, more marshmallow-y center. It's a decadent finish to a holiday dinner, but strangely light, which seems appropriate after ham or whatever other heavy things make up your Easter meal. It's also going to be almost 80 degrees here in NYC on Easter Sunday, so a light dessert might be nice. Good planning on my part.
Pavlovas should be easy: They require very few ingredients and very little active cooking time. But, I've learned the hard way (read: after 4 fallen pavlovas), that the technique can be tricky. I've put some lengthy notes below to explain what I did to achieve pavlova success on my 5th try. Victory in our time.
I've done A LOT of research on pavlova techniques in the past 14 days. Unfortunately, some of the advice is contradictory (why does that always happen?). In 20 years, when I've made 400 pavlovas, I'll update this post with a foolproof method for cooking them. Until then, here's what worked:
1) Cold egg whites are fine. Using cold eggs are not the secret because I also used cold egg whites in one of my fallen meringues. But I used them in my successful one, so don't worry about bringing them to room temperature before you get started.
2) Whip egg whites at a slower speed for a longer amount of time. I whipped the egg whites on a 4 with my stand mixer and had the best results when aerating the eggs a little more slowly. Using a lower speed also makes it easier to ensure that you whip enough, but not too much.
3) Whip the eggs almost to stiff peaks before adding the sugar. I read this advice on a random Australian listserv (I did a DEEP dive into pavlova-land) and it really helped. All of the other recipes I read told me to add the sugar when the eggs were at soft peaks, but that inevitably led to fallen pavlova. I tried to get some good photos of the soft peak stage, but was scared to stop the mixer, lest my 5th attempt fall too. Basically, you'll know you're at soft peaks when the bubbles that started earlier as froth become really really tiny, the eggs' volume increases, and you can see the tracks from the whisk going through the mixture. Once you get here, keep mixing for a few more minutes before adding the sugar.
4) Don't overbeat the eggs. Once you've added the sugar, stop whipping as soon as the egg whites start looking glossy and shiny and check to see if you've achieved stiff peaks.
5) Sift the malt powder, chocolate, and cornstarch over the whipped meringue. I worked pretty hard to ensure that nothing deflated those eggs and the only time it worked was when I actually sifted the dry add-ins at the end. I also folded the ingredients together excruciatingly gently and JUST until things are mixed together enough. I left the batter a little streaky because I really didn't want them to deflate.
But fear not. If you're still reading, then you're already committed to making this and good on you. Regardless of what happens with the texture of your pavlova, it'll taste great. This recipe uses a lot less sugar than most because I find most pavlovas awfully sweet. I also love the flavor of malt. While the pavlova itself isn't overwhelmingly malt-y, it has a mild sweetness and chocolate-y flavor that melds perfectly with some lightly sweetened cream and the malted and chocolate candies on top. If I was doing this again, I would also dust the top with malt powder. But if I make another pavlova, my husband might divorce me.
6 egg whites
large pinch of salt
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vinegar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
3 Tbsp malt powder
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Separate the egg whites and yolks and set the yolks aside. (Be careful! Seriously, no yolks allowed in pavlova.) In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on medium-low speed ("4" on my stand mixer) until they start to get frothy. Add the salt and continue whipping. Look for soft peaks: (in case you didn't read this above) The bubbles that started forming when the eggs got frothy become really tiny, the eggs’ volume increases, and you can see clear tracks where the whisk cuts through the mixture. Continue whisking past this stage (still on speed 4) for about 3-4 more minutes.
Add the sugar in 2-3 Tbsp increments while continuing to whip. After each sugar addition, let your mixer go for about 1 minute to incorporate the sugar. Once your sugar is mixed in, continue whisking until the eggs look glossy and shiny. Stop the mixer and check that you’re at “stiff peaks.” To check: turn the whisk right side up and see if the egg whites stay in a peak or lop over—they should stay in a peak. Add the vinegar and then sift the cornstarch, malt powder, and cocoa over the eggs. Very gently, fold the ingredients together until JUST mixed.
Mound this mixture onto your parchment and smooth down the top a bit, leaving a slight divot in the center. Put in the oven and immediately reduce heat to 300. Cook for 60-70 minutes and then turn off the heat and let cool completely in the oven with the door closed.
The pavlova can be kept, well covered, for 2-3 days before being decorated with the cream and candy.
2 cups heavy whipping cream
4 Tbsp sugar
½ Tbsp vanilla extract
Combination of Cadbury chocolate mini eggs and Whoppers malted mini eggs
To assemble: Remove the parchment paper and place the pavlova on your serving dish. Some people like to invert the pavlova and put cream on the underside. I have no preference about this step. Mound the whipped cream on whatever side you like and top with the candy. Serve immediately.
Yield: 8-10 servings