Being a huge fan of the classic pavlova dessert made the decision of how to use the eggs whites left over from a batch of Bavarian Slices very easy. Pavlova is such a classic dessert which can easily be made either as an individual portion or as a larger centre piece for family get-togethers. The meringue shell is usually filled with cream and topped with delicious fruit. It's a fabulous summertime dessert which makes great use of the fresh ripening berries.
Having heard Carol Kirkwood, arguably one of the nation's favourite weather reporters, the other day describe last night's moon as a Strawberry Moon our Pavlova simply had to be filled with this wonderful fruit. It simply seemed rude not to buy a punnet of delicious strawberries which are gracing our shelves at the moment. Strawberry Moon is such an interesting description and having Googled it I learnt that not only is it very infrequent, but it was coined after the North American Algonquin tribe who saw it as the start of the strawberry harvest.
Having griddled some peaches and served them with macerated strawberries and basil and enjoyed a Summery Strawberry Meringue Roulade with Bail last summer, Mr E & I now fully appreciate how well the beautiful red fruit of the strawberry works with basil. Our Strawberry and Basil Pavlova makes the most of this wonderful pairing. A few hand shredded leaves and a tiny drizzle of balsamic vinegar is enough to lift the strawberry flavour to a new dimension. The basil and balsamic vinegar are largely unnoticeable yet they manage to enhance the strawberry flavour wonderfully. The macerated strawberries give off quite a lot of lovely red syrupy liquid, and rather than pouring it over the assembled pavlova, which would no doubt quickly spoil the meringue, I'd suggest decanting it into a small jug to allow people to help themselves once the pavlova is served.
The meringue itself is made using the Swiss technique, which I must admit sounds a little daunting but the method simply means that the egg whites and sugar are whipped up whilst suspended over a bain marie. It creates the most fantastic thick meringue, which when cooked is slightly crisp on the outside and fabulously marshmallow like on the inside. I kid you not, the meringue is so easy to make and is immensely nicer than those overly crisp meringues which can be bought in the supermarket. Like all meringues, this pavlova base can be kept overnight in an airtight container before it is filled with cream and fruit.
Yield: 1 x 21cm Pavlova
Difficulty: Easy - Moderate
Time: hands on time about 30 - 35 minutes; plus 70 - 80 minutes bake time; macerating time 30 minutes; cooling time at least 2 hours.
You will need:
1 Large Baking Tray
Large Mixing Bowl
Electric Hand Held Beaters
Piping Bag (optional)
Star Nozzle (optional)
2 x Medium Bowls
For the Swiss Meringue
3 large Eggs, whites of
For the cream layer
300ml Double Cream
3 tsp Strawberry Jam (optional)
For the macerated strawberries
400g punnet Fresh Strawberries
5 fresh Basil Leaves, torn with fingers
¾ tsp Balsamic Vinegar
How to make it:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 130c / Fan 110c / Gas ½
2. Prepare the baking tray.
Cut a sheet of greaseproof paper large enough to cover your baking tray. Draw a circle on it, perhaps using a tea plate as a stencil. Turn the paper over so that the pencil / pen line is on the underside of the paper. Tack the paper down with a little butter or margarine. Wash your hands so the grease form the butter / margarine doesn't affect the meringue.
3. Prepare to make the Swiss meringue. Ensure that your bowl and beaters are scrupulously clean and free of any grease. Part fill a pan with water and sit the bowl over it to make a bain marie. Ensure the water in the ban doesn't touch the base of the bowl. Set the pan over a medium flame.
4. Make the Swiss meringue. Add the egg whites and all of the sugar to the bowl. Use the beaters to combine the sugar and egg whites. Continue beating. The egg whites will soon start to thicken, turn white and increase in volume. Constantly whip the egg whites to prevent them from cooking on the base of the pan. You're aiming for the sugar to completely dissolve into the meringue mixture. Test this by rubbing a little of the meringue between your fingers - it should no longer feel grainy. This stage will take around 8-10 minutes.
5. Continue beating the meringue. Place a piece of kitchen roll or a clean tea-towel onto your work surface. Once the sugar has fully dissolved remove the bowl from the pan and sit it on the prepared area. Continue beating the meringue until it has completely cooled. The meringue will thicken even more and will be glossy and shiny.
6. Shape the meringue. Either spoon the meringue onto the prepared baking sheet and spread it out to the rough dimension of the circle you drew. Use the back of a spoon to hollow the centre out a little making the sides a little taller. OR, fill a piping bag fitted with a nozzle (I use a star nozzle) with the meringue. Starting in the centre of the drawn circle pipe a continuous spiral to fill the area of the circle. Build up the walls of the pavlova by piping around the circumference of the circle (I piped three circles ontop of each other for this). Aim to keep the piped walls quite thick to help with the pavlova's stability.
7. Bake the pavlova. Place the baking tray into the centre of the pre-heated oven. Bake for 70 - 80 minutes until the meringue is firm to the touch and very slightly golden. Reduce the oven temperature further if your meringue is browning.
8. Cool. Turn off the oven. Leave the pavlova in the oven. Allow the oven to cool completely for at least 2 hours before removing the pavlova from the oven.
9. Macerate the strawberries. Half an hour before you're ready to assemble the pavlova begin to macerate the strawberries. Clean and hull the strawberries. Slice them ¼" thick. Put the slices into a bowl. Add the sugar and stir gently with a spoon. Add the hand torn basil and balsamic vinegar. Stir again and set aside for 30 minutes (or up to a maximum of 90 minutes).
10. Whip and flavour the cream. Put the jam into a small bowl. Use the back of a teaspoon to mix and slacken the jam. Pour the cream into a larger bowl and whip with a balloon whisk until almost soft peak stage. Add the jam to the cream and mix to combine. If the cream isn't thick enough at this stage whisk a little more, though avoid over whisking.
11. Assemble the pavlova. Place the pavlova meringue onto your chosen cake stand or plate. Spoon the whipped cream into its centre. Spoon the macerated strawberries over the top, avoid adding too much of the strawberry syrup. Decant the syrup into a small jug to be served alongside the Strawberry and Basil Pavlova.
a) Ensure the bowl and beaters used for whipping the egg whites are scrupulously clean.
b) Please be careful not to knock your bowl and pan of hot water over whilst beating the meringue.
c) As well as using your fingers to ensure the sugar has fully dissolved into the meringue, you can also use a sugar thermometer. It is ready when it has reached 73c/163f, though I didn't use a thermometer.
d) When shaping the pavlova avoid making the walls too high which may cause them to lean during the bake. Also aim to keep them quite thick and sturdy.
e) The pavlova shell can be made the day before it is required. Simply store it in an airtight container and assemble just before it is required.
f) Rip the fresh basil leaves with your fingers as using a knife to chop it can affect its flavour.