And the results are in. My sister has officially won this year’s annual Australia Day Pav off.
To say that my family love a competition is an understatement. Scrabble games are treated like grand finals and card games can rival some of the more impressive tennis matches in length. When someone throws down the gauntlet, it’s on.
The family Pav-off started by accident last year, after mum and my sister both sent me photos of their homemade pavlovas to make me feel included in their respective Australia Day celebrations (I was up to my neck in lectures and study at the time). After uploading both pictures in quick succession to my Instagram account, it quickly became a race to see whose photo could get the most likes by the end of the day. My sister was the clear winner. This year, with my sister’s title to hold and mum’s pride to gain back, there was no question that the competition was going to heat up.
After a contentious start in which my sister put in a (very valid) complaint that mum’s pavlova picture included both staging (of her home grown pineapple) AND it was technically taken by me, my sister quickly overtook mum in the number of likes on Instagram ended up the end of the day with a 74 votes compared to mum’s 62. Let’s just say that there may have even been some trash talking via our group text messages.
For anyone who has not tried this traditional Aussie dessert, Pavlova’s (or Pav’s) are essentially a giant meringue with a soft centre, topped with whipped cream and fruit. Created and named in honour of the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova after her Australia/ New Zealand tour in the 1920s, both countries now share a claim over this dessert (although the first known recipe was published in New Zealand, much too the dismay of many Aussies).
Although there are lots of variations on this iconic dessert both mum and my sister use the same amazing Margaret Fulton recipe, that I have shared with you below.
- 8 egg whites, room temperature
- 2 cups (440g) caster sugar
- 1½ tsp vinegar
- 1½ tsp vanilla essence
- 450ml thickened cream, whipped
- Chopped Fruit
- Preheat oven to 190°C (normal not fan oven), line baking tray with baking paper and mark 24cm circle.
- Use an electric mixer to beat egg whites until firm (A pinch of salt will help). Add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating constantly, until thick and glossy. Fold in vinegar and vanilla essence. Spoon large dollops of meringue inside circle on baking tray. Smooth into shape of pavlova with spatula. Mark decorative grooves around side and indent top to accommodate filling.
- Reduce oven temperature to 150°C. Bake pavlova for 1½ hours. If pavlova browns too quickly, reduce heat. (Avoid opening door and losing heat as it will cause the oven element to turn on and risks browning the pavlova). Turn off oven and leave pavlova to cool in oven with door slightly ajar.
- For the cherry syrup cook cherries with sugar and water on a medium heat for 5 minutes until cherries are soft. Puree in a blender, rub through a sieve. Return to a saucepan and cook on a high heat for another 5 minutes, until thick and syrupy.
- Place pavlova on serving plate and cover with whipped cream. Decorate with chopped fruit.
- Caster sugar should always be used for making pavlova. Coarser granulated white sugar will not dissolve completely in the beating and usually leaves a gritty texture.
- A too hot oven can cause syrup beads and a yellow crust.
- If the weather is humid, bake Pavlovas as close to serving as possible.
- The outside of the pavlova should be dry and crunchy, even a little cracked without browning, while the inside stays soft.
- Avoid handling the pavlova once it is cooked.
- Keep the pavlova in an airtight container or dry place away from draughts and moisture.