T’was the week before Christmas and I was sitting at home
Flipping through TV channels, all alone.
On PBS I happened to stand,
Where they were broadcasting a show from a faraway land!
PBS was airing a show from the BBC, the British equivalent to American PBS, with Mary Berry and a handsome gentleman I had never heard of before, Paul Hollywood. They were cooking, baking, and creating all sorts of deliciousness for the holiday season. From appetizers straight through to dessert, the pair were concocting the most fascinating dishes. I watched in awe as they broke the recipes down and made them seem as though ANYONE could make these dishes with ease. When they got to the dessert; that’s when I saw something I knew I HAD TO MAKE:
A Christmas Pavlova!
I had never heard of Pavlova before, let alone made anything like it. When the episode was over, I watched the Pavlova bit a few times to make sure I had a rough idea about what to do. (I also found it online so I could watch it as a refresher when the time came to bake it.)
noun: pavlova; plural noun: pavlovas
- a dessert consisting of a meringue base or shell filled with whipped cream and fruit.
Two days before Christmas my youngest daughter and I were ready to start this Pavlovian adventure! I printed out the recipe from the BBC website, but had to convert the measurements from British to American. (The recipe below is all converted for you!) My husband, who does most of the food shopping, got all the ingredients we needed, and we were ready to go. We watched the video once again to make sure we knew what to expect, but what happened next was anything but expected.
I had a container of presorted egg whites in my fridge from a previous (successful) kitchen experiment, so, I thought I was a step ahead of the game when the Pavlova recipe calls for 6oz of egg whites.
LEARN SOMETHING NEW: 6 oz of egg whites is the equivalent to 6 eggs
We measured out the egg whites, sugar, cornstarch, and vinegar and were ready to start.
Step 1: whip the egg whites until they’re pillowy clouds.
We know what clouds look like!
We put the egg whites into the bowl and put the hand mixer on the highest setting, as was recommended, and watched. My daughter and I watched…and watched…and watched. Well, they were stirring, and getting kinda bubbly…but pillowy? Nope! *sigh*
Okay, maybe we did it wrong. Clearly this batch wasn’t working, so we dumped out the egg whites then watched the video again.
We measured out 6 more ounces of egg whites…from the presorted container. (For the record: these worked VERY WELL when making royal icing.) We put the hand mixer on the highest setting and whipped the egg whites into a…a…a… puddle of bubbles again! Nowhere near the pillowy clouds we were supposed to be whipping up.
Feeling defeated, we once again we dumped the mixture out. What on Earth were we doing wrong? (and by “we” I mean “me” because my sweet daughter was only 11 at the time.)
Put egg whites in the bowl, whip them for a few minutes, and BAM, (supposed to be) PILLOWY CLOUDS! We did everything correctly, WHY did we not get pillowy clouds? I have watched plenty of baking shows and baking competitions to know what I am looking for! Could it be the TV magic? Was reality TV different from reality life? (when it comes to baking…don’t get me started on scripted “reality TV.”)
I went to the interwebs for answers. “Why are my eggs not whipping into meringue?” Surprise, surprise, there were answers! We were using the presorted egg whites you get in the dairy section. People were complaining about these not whipping properly and suggested using actual eggs. Separate the whites from the yolks and supposedly this was the magic trick.
I’d never separated eggs before and was quite surprised that there is a distinct difference between the two bits of eggs once you start to separate them. The yolks separated very easily from the whites! HUZZAH! Finally something was going right!
Okay, 6 eggs sorted and put into the bowl, and wouldn’t ya know…THAT was the difference maker! The egg whites whipped right up into pillowy clouds! YAY! (We literally said, “yay” at the same time when we had pillowy clouds.)
Step 2: Slowly add in the sugar and your pillowy clouds will stiffen into pillowy peaks.
GOT IT…we hoped!
Step 2, 3, and 4 went smoothly! We even added a Step 5…green food coloring! We got stiff pillowy peaks and even tipped the bowl upside-down to “prove” we had done it correctly. (It’s a thing…literally every baking show does it.)
We arranged the green pillowy batter into the shape of a wreath then baked the Pavlova in the oven for an hour and left it in there for 2 hours. 2 hours was the recommended minimum for the Pavlova to sit in the oven. Yes, leave it alone in the oven for a MINIMUM of 2 hours; but leaving it overnight is strongly suggested. A suggestion we should have heeded.
We carefully took the Pavlova out of the oven and went to place it on the counter. This is where disaster struck! Pavlovas are VERY fragile.
Let me say this again for the rookie bakers: PAVLOVAS ARE VERY FRAGILE!
The beautiful wreath was destroyed in an instant and all we did was carefully move it from the oven to the counter. UGH! I tried using food spray coloring to “hide” the mistakes. No, no, no. That simply AMPLIFIED the mistakes!
Well, by this time, it was late and we were out of sugar. Making a new one to rest overnight was not going to happen. First thing in the morning though, my amazingly wonderful husband went back to the store to get more sugar for his favorite girls. (we are very lucky to have such a wonderful man)
Back to the kitchen my daughter and I went! We had about 7 hours to get this made, cooled, and out the door for our family Christmas Eve party.
Steps 1-4 were a breeze this time. I realized, while hubby was gone to the store, that I had green sugar in my cupboard. We added the green sugar to the regular sugar instead of using the green food coloring and it worked perfectly! We baked the Pavlova and let it sit for 6 hours. This time…moving it worked a LOT better! (I would still recommend overnight if you’re able.)
Now to make the whipping cream, chop up the strawberries, assemble the Pavlova wreath, and sprinkle it with powdered sugar. We only used strawberries for the wreath because it was for Christmas and I wanted it to look festive. The recipe below uses a few different berries. The fun part about this…you can make it however your little heart desires!
We were thrilled the final Pavlova came out PERFECT!
I have been doing some more reading about Pavlovas and there are SO MANY variations out there. I am planning on making little ones filled with different creams and berries for Easter; so stay tuned for the Pavlovian trial runs in late March/early April.
Here is the recipe for the Christmas Pavlova Wreath:
For the pavlova
For the filling
- 20fl oz whipping cream
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1¾oz powdered sugar, sifted
- 7oz strawberries, hulled and quartered
- 10½oz raspberries
- 7oz blueberries
- 1¾oz pomegranate seeds
- a few mint leaves, to decorate
- powdered sugar, for dusting
Preheat the oven to 320° F.
Line a large baking tray with baking parchment paper and draw a 12in circle in the middle of the paper. Draw a 6in circle in the center of the larger circle to make a ring/wreath.
- Put the egg whites in a clean mixing bowl and mix with an electric mixer until the look like pillowy clouds.
- Gradually add the sugar a little at a time, mixing on maximum speed until they are stiff & glossy pillowy clouds.
- Mix the vinegar and corn starch in a cup until smooth.
- Stir into the egg whites.
You’ve now made a meringue! Well done!
- Spoon the meringue onto the ring/wreath drawn on the baking parchment paper.
- Using a large spoon make a shallow trench in the meringue for the cream and fruit to sit in.
- Transfer to the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 284° F .
- Bake for 1 hour–1 hour 15 minutes, until the outside is hard but not turning brown.
- Turn the oven off and leave the Pavlova inside for an hour or overnight to cool and dry.
- To assemble:
- Whip the cream, vanilla, and powdered sugar in an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.
- Spoon the cream into the trench in the meringue.
- Arrange the strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and pomegranate on top and decorate with a few mint leaves, if using.
- Dust with powdered sugar and cut into wedges.
Like I said earlier, PAVLOVAS ARE VERY FRAGILE, so be careful when moving it from the oven to the counter. I strongly recommend letting the Pavlova sit in the oven overnight to cool/harden.
The next blog is going to be about my lifelong search for a specific gingerbread man recipe. My grandmother died when I was 5, but I remember her gingerbread men and houses. I know what I am expecting them to taste like, but haven’t found the proper recipe yet…or have I? Stay tuned to see if I found an equivalent to my Grandma Kay’s recipe!