I’ve had some friends to visit and decided that I ought to make a pudding. Given that I had a load of leftover egg whites in my fridge, something with meringue in seemed like a good plan. Eton mess seems to be a big thing in some restaurants and on wedding menus recently, but I don’t see the fuss. I’d much rather have something which looks beautiful as well as tasting very naughty! Of course the main attraction of a sweet, gooey, creamy meringue is that they are loved by many adults and children alike, and tend to be a good crowd pleaser at parties.
Meringue is really easy to make, provided you’re patient – you have to make sure that you have whisked enough that it will retain its shape when cooked. But despite being really simple, it looks very impressive and meringue is deliciously gooey and sweet against the tart fruit. Mine was a caramel colour from using brown sugar, but you can obviously use all white caster sugar if preferred.
The meringue can be made pretty far in advance, but the pavlova must be assembled as possible as the moisture in the cream and fruit will start to dissolve the sugar if left for too long. There aren’t many ingredients here, and the recipe can be very easily altered to suit your taste – change the fruit, add some cocoa powder to the meringue when whisking in the sugar, add some alcohol to the cream. Use your imagination, but don’t sweeten the cream – there’s just no need! If like me you’re a bit scared of cutting your beautiful creation (one of my guests had to serve the dessert for me!) then you can also make mini individual versions of the dish, which would be particularly good if your diners have different filling preferences.
Raspberry and Strawberry Layered Pavlova
5 egg whites
6 oz/170g golden caster sugar
3 oz/ 85g dark brown soft sugar
1 tsp cider vinegar
1 pint/600ml double cream
Strawberries and Raspberries (I used frozen raspberries, as fresh ones were so expensive!) or other fruit
- Preheat the oven to 150OC/300OF/Gas Mark 2. Place the egg whites in a spotlessly clean bowl and whisk until they form soft peaks when you lift the whisk out. Add the sugar and vinegar and continue to whisk until fairly stiff and glossy. The sugar needs to have dissolved, so if there is a grainy texture to the mixture at all, continue whisking. It’s really easy with an electric whisk, but I used an ordinary balloon hand whisk and it didn’t take too long.
- Draw 3 circles on greaseproof paper, about 8 inches in diameter, cut so that there is space around the edge of the circles and place each onto a baking sheet. Divide the egg whites between the three sheets, spreading out as evenly as possible to the edges of the drawn circle. Bake for around 30-40 minutes, until the meringue is crispy and comes away easily from the greaseproof paper. Turn the oven off, and leave the meringues in the oven to cool and dry out.
- Prepare the fruit. Whip the cream until it is fairly stiff (together with any alcohol etc).
- Place one meringue disc onto a serving dish. Cover with a layer of cream, followed by a layer of fruit. Place a small amount of cream over the top of the fruit in the middle (to ensure the meringue sticks), and place the second disc on top. Repeat until the pavlova has been assembled.