It’s rare for me to have more than a few days off work without going away on holiday, but I had a week and a half at home over the Christmas break so NATURALLY I assumed I’d merrily tick off all the tasks on my To Do list that have languished there since 1971. Things like: Dig out sewing machine and make dresses. Clean out wardrobe. Cut and polish car. Write several blog posts. Consolidate super. Visit dentist. Watch seasons four and five of Dexter and season one of Mad Men. And so on.
Well, my car’s clean, and I know what happens to the Trinity Killer. So that’s a start. But the rest of my break was spent cooking, socialising, hosting my family for Christmas, going to the cinema several times and having a BLOODY GOOD TIME. No dentist visit. No blog posts. No new dresses.
But here’s something: on Boxing Day I pulled out some eggs, sugar and other tasty things and made the best pavlova I’ve ever tasted (wow, no self esteem issues here!) – crisp shell and marshmallowy centre, topped with smooth custard cream and dark fruits. I haven’t made a pav since I was a little’un, and they always turned out crispy throughout (I was a fan of piping a big mound without smoothing it down, so the oven dried the whole thing out).
I wasn’t planning to make a pavlova, but instead a red fruit salad with custard cream. Unfortunately the strawberries died a sorry death in the fridge, so instead of serving my family a meagre little serve of fruit salad, I decided the plum, grapes and cherries would look a whole lot better on top of a pavlova. And oh, they certainly did.
I’m going to make this again in a few weeks’ time, for Australia Day. Maybe I’ll even make TWO.
Recipe: Pavlova with custard cream and dark red fruits
Note: It’s best to make the meringue part of the pavlova in the morning so it can dry out in time for lunch or dinner. It serves about 6.
The meringue bit:
4 egg whites
1 cup caster sugar
2 tbsp cornflour
2 tsp white vinegar
2 tbsp custard powder
½ cup milk
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 tbsp caster sugar
300ml thickened cream
½ cup icing sugar
2 dark red plums, chopped
20ish red seedless grapes, chopped in half
20ish fresh cherries, chopped in half and pips removed
Icing sugar, for dusting
To make the meringue bit:
Preheat oven to 150°C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
Beat the egg whites with an electric beater in a clean, dry bowl, until the mixture is firm and peaks form. Gradually add the sugar one tablespoonful at a time, beating after each addition until the mixture is thick and glossy. Add the vinegar and sift in the cornflour, and beat until combined.
Plop the mixture onto the baking tray and form it into a round shape about 20cm in diameter. Put it on the oven and reduce the temp to 120°C. Bake for 1 hour and 20 mins, then turn off the oven and let it cool down for a few hours.
To make the custard cream:
Mix the custard powder with a little of the milk in a saucepan until the mixture turns into a paste. Stir in the remaining milk as well as the caster sugar and vanilla essence, then place over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture boils and thickens. Transfer to bowl, cover, and refrigerate until cold. Once cold, stir with a spoon until smooth, or use an electric beater if it’s too lumpy.
In a separate bowl, beat the thickened cream and icing sugar together until peaks form, then add the custard a couple of spoonfuls at a time, gently folding the mixture together after each addition.
To assemble the pavlova:
Carefully shift the pavlova to a serving plate and spread the custard cream on top. Don’t worry if the meringue cracks, just glue any bits back on with custard cream. Heap the fruit on top then dust with icing sugar.
Enjoy, because it will taste AWESOME.