This post is part of our beginner’s guide to baking series – catch up on the other post here and here.
Ever wondered what the trick is to making the perfect pav? Just like everything in baking, it all comes back to a bit of basic science! Here’s everything you need to know to help you make the perfect pavlova every single time.
Do I really need to use old eggs?
If you’re after the best results, the answer is definitely yes! When it comes down to it, pavs are really just made from two key ingredients – eggs and sugar – so it’s important that you make sure these are spot on.
Fresh eggs have thick egg whites which, while great for some things, isn’t ideal when you’re whipping up a pav as it’s harder to get the right amount of volume. Luckily, as eggs age the egg whites thin and create more volume when beaten. Basically, with older eggs you can whip more air into the mixture, giving you a beautifully light and airy pav!
What type of sugar should I use?
While some recipes use standard white sugar, I always use caster sugar when making a pavlova – just like eggs, it all comes back to getting the maximum amount of volume into your mixture.
Remember what I mentioned last time about how sugar digs away at butter to aerate it when you cream them together? Well, this is pretty much the same principle.
Caster sugar is super-fine white sugar, so every spoonful of caster sugar has a greater number of sugar crystals than standard white sugar. When you whip them into your egg white, the jagged edges of the caster sugar help aerate the eggs so your finished meringue mixture is light and airy, just how it should be.
Plus, because the crystals are smaller in caster sugar, it’s easier to dissolve – saving both you time and the pav from being over-beaten.
Can I overbeat the mixture?
Absolutely! Overbeating your meringue mixture causes too many bonds to form between the egg proteins, which basically makes the mixture too tight. This can cause a range of problems like cracking, oozing and collapsing. Not ideal, right?
Why do pavlovas have vinegar in them?
Adding vinegar to your pavlova mixture helps prevent those nasty side-effects of accidental overbeating by neutralising some of those tight egg proteins.
Vinegar is an acid which means it’s packed with positively charged particles. When added to your mixture, these seek out any charged proteins and neutralise them – helping prevent pavlova disaster!
How about cornflour – what does that do?
Just like vinegar, cornflour also helps keep your egg proteins in line by creating a buffer to help prevent them from overcooking during all that time in the oven. After all, a pav wouldn’t be a pav without being gorgeously marshmallowy inside!
Adding a little cornflour (or arrowroot) to your mixture also helps prevent the egg whites from weeping in the oven – that means no any sticky clear liquid hanging around the base of your pav.
So even though there are only a handful of ingredients in pavlova, there’s actually a lot going on, right? And with so much to keep in mind while you’re baking, it’s totally natural to feel a bit exhausted afterwards.
Fisher & Paykel totally get it, so have created a clever feature on some of their ovens that takes some of the pressure off busy bakers – the cleaning! A range of Fisher & Paykel ovens have a clever Pyrolitic self-cleaning function that takes the chore out of cleaning by naturally breaking down food residue inside the oven at a very high temperature. That means you can throw out those awful oven cleaning sprays and simply wipe out the light ash that remains with a damp cloth. Pretty impressive, huh?
To help Kiwi bakers and cooks get the most out of their time in the kitchen, Fisher & Paykel have created eight different cooking styles – if you know why you cook the way you do, you’re more likely to get the best results. Pop over to the Fisher & Paykel website and do their ‘What’s Your Cooking Style’ quiz – you might be surprised!
Now that you’re a bit of a pavlova expert it’s time to give it a go yourself. Here’s one of my favourite recipes for an awesome pav to help get you started – happy baking!
- 4 egg whites, room temperature
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 2 tsp vinegar
- 6 Tbsp boiling water
- 1 Tbsp cornflour
- 1 ½ cups caster sugar
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius and line a baking tray with baking paper. Draw a circle around a side-plate or small cake tin to use as a guide.
- Place egg whites in a large bowl and beat on high until soft peaks form. Gradually add caster sugar, 1 Tbsp at a time, until mixture is thick and glossy (approx. 10 minutes).
- Add vanilla, vinegar, boiling water and cornflour and mix for a further 20-30 seconds, until combined. Mixture should be stiff and bowl able to be tipped upside down without anything moving.
- Spoon mixture onto prepared baking tray, using traced circle as a guide.
- Place in oven and cook for 10 minutes before turning the oven off. Leave pavlova in the oven without opening the door for at least one hour – longer if you have time.
- Top with whipped cream and your favourite berries to serve.
This post was made possible thanks to Fisher & Paykel. All words, photos and opinions are, and always will be, my own.