Most home-cooked dessert should be simple - some fruit and yoghurt pots. An easy upside down cake. A boozy sorbet for the grown ups. It's the no-stress, no-fuss type of dessert you can put together with cupboard ingredients and only a few minutes to spare.
But sometimes dessert should be fussed over. Sometimes dessert should be an extravagant spectacle that elicits spontaneous oohs and ahhs from your guests. So for our Christmas Day lunch yesterday I decided to bake a three-layer pavlova.
Pavlova -- that brilliant Australian dessert comprising a meringue and marshmallow base topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit -- is pretty darn near perfect as it is. But of course I had to fiddle with the original recipe, making a deconstructed pavlova and a Messy Pavlova or Eton Mess Down Under Style.
This time I decided to make my pavlova fantasy - a stack of three pavlovas with only red fruit and rose petals. I just love how festive and celebratory this looks.
I'd never made a layered pavlova before and was a little concerned that it might collapse under its own weight so made sure to whip the cream a little thicker than usual to help with stability. I also baked the pavs the night before so they had plenty of time to cool and dry out a little bit.
As it turned out apart from a little cracking and compressing of the middle layer the pavlova held firm. In any case, I like the cracking and slight unevenness of a home-made pav - it's the antithesis of the always 'perfect' pavs you can buy from Coles.
Decorated with fresh fruit and dried rose petals, this layered pavlova is something of a show-stopper. So next time you have something to celebrate why not give it a go?
Raspberry Pomegranate Layered Pavlova
- 10 egg whites
- Large pinch salt
- 2.5 cups sugar
- 5 teaspoons corn flour
- 2.5 teaspoons white or red wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla bean extract
- 725 mls thickened cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean extract
- 2-3 punnets raspberries (I used 2)
- 1 large pomegranate or 2 small ones
- 2 teaspoons dried rose petals (food grade, organic if possible)
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
- Line three baking trays with baking paper or tin foil and draw a 20cm circle on each.
- Wipe mixing bowl with vinegar and then beat egg whites with salt until soft peaks form.
- Add sugar in five batches (1/2 cup at a team), beating thoroughly between each addition until meringue is thick and shiny. Try holding the bowl upside down - if the meringue doesn't move, it's thick enough!
- Add cornflour, vinegar and vanilla extract and gently fold in.
- Divide mixture equally between three baking trays and spread gently to fill in the circle shape (an offset spatula is great for this). Smooth the top and the sides.
- Place the trays in the oven and immediately reduce heat to 120 degrees Celsius. Bake pavlovas for 90 minutes and then turn off heat, leaving them to cool in the oven.
- When ready to assemble, whip cream with 1 teaspoon vanilla bean extract.
- Take one pavlova and spread with a third of the cream, leaving a 2 cm gap around the edge. Decorate with a handful of berries and pomegranate seeds, concentrating the berries at the sides and the pomegranate seeds in the middle). Repeat with two other layers.
- Add a few extra raspberries and pomegranate seeds on the sides and then sprinkle rose petals over the whole thing, letting some fall over the berries and pomegranate seeds and some on the sides.
- Serves 16-18.
- Gluten and nut free.
- I assembled the pavlova on a dinner plate that I then placed on a cake stand because I wanted to photograph it and then refrigerate it until it was time for dessert (the cake stand plus pavlova wouldn't have fit in the fridge). Usually I'd assemble the pavlova directly onto a cake stand.
- You can substitute any kind of fresh fruit you can get your hands on for the raspberries and pomegranates. I also love mango and passionfruit together, and peaches and blueberries. Just keep in mind that the lighter the fruit, the more likely that the pavlova will keep its shape.
- To de-seed a pomegranate, wear an apron and place a deep bowl in the kitchen sink. Cut the pomegranate in half and then use a heavy wooden spoon to bash the seeds out of the pomegranate and into the bowl. Doing this in the sink reduces the clean up job as the juice tends to spurt everywhere.
- If the pav does collapse simply scoop up sections of it and serve them in individual bowls with added fruit as Eton Mess. No one will notice.
More Show-Stopping Desserts
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