Friday, January 2, 2015

Pavlova quest

I'm constantly trying to make the perfect pavlova, and maybe I'm getting closer.  No matter how many times I try though it's never absolutely right - I'm still trying to get it snowy white without too many cracks.  There's a plethora of advice out there - but maybe it's just practice makes perfect.  And forget chocolate and other variations, I just can't get seem to get both the extras plus a good rise in mine.

Today's Xmas effort is actually my second attempt - I tried to do a raspberry one first and it ended up a flat meringue pancake with dessicated raspberry jam on top (see previous paragraph).  It tasted just fine but looked terrible.

Not too bad.  But still too browned.  And its fallen quite a lot (more so than previous efforts) - I think this time I might have had the oven a little low but I was trying to avoid it browning.  Do they just photoshop the ones in mags so they all look snowy white???

So here's my recipe, which is a combination of lots of others and adjusted for my particular hardware (Ilve 90cm oven and kitchenaid mixer).

6 egg whites or 9 bantam egg whites, at room temperature 
Pinch salt
200g caster sugar
1 tsp cream of tartar or white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cornflour

Preheat oven to 180C, NOT fan forced.  Prepare a tray with a 20cm circle marked on the underside of some baking paper.

The cornflour and salt are supposed to help stabilise the meringue.  I've tried it with and without the cornflour and not sure I notice much difference, but I've not experimented with leaving the salt out.

Beat eggs whites and salt with wire whisk on speed 4 (low-medium) until soft peaks form.  This takes a while but does seem to make for better aeration (a kitchenaid tip).

Add sugar in 3rds beating at speed 6 and scraping down bowl each time.  With the last third add the vanilla, cornflour and cream of tartar.  A lot of recipes say to fold these in these (or white vinegar instead of cream of tartar) right at the end of all beating, but I find the folding deflates the meringue too much.

Turn speed up to high (10) and beat for 6 minutes.  The whole beating process takes me about 8 minutes.  The sugar should be well and truly dissolved - test by rubbing between your fingers and there should be not gritty feeling.

The meringue is now quite stiff and is really quite resistant when you try to make a mound with it.  If you over eat it, it becomes (relatively) floppy again.  I don't find the description of "glossy stiff peaks" very helpful as it's pretty glossy from about 2 minutes in as far as I can tell, and I have never noticed it losing its shine and going dull, which is supposed to be a sign of overbeating.  I used to beat it for more like 10 minutes, just by setting the timer and letting the mixer go for it, and it was only by accident that I discovered the meringue was actually a lot stiffer if I stopped earlier than that.

Mound onto your baking tray in a circle, trying to mess with it as little as possible.  I pull up the sides to make vertical ridges as that's supposed to help it keep its shape better.

Put in oven on low shelf and turn down immediately to 125C.  Bake for 90 minutes.  Leave to cool in oven for as long as possible.  I leave the door shut.

I think next time I'll revert to the temps that Stephanie Alexander uses (150 for 30 mins and then turn down to 120 for the rest) or try preheating to 150 and then turning down to 100 for baking (last time I tried this I got sugar syrup weeping, which is supposed to be a sign of undercooking).  And I need to keep experimenting with the shelf height.

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