Pavlova Wreath

In my last blog, I mentioned the profound effect the deviantART community has had on my culinary art. One of the most significant impacts has been on the photography of it. Photos were always just snapshots of my food meant to illustrate my blog and my recipes therein. The amazing food photographers over on dA, especially those submitting their work to the same groups as myself, inspired me to want to make the photography art in of itself.

Some time ago, I bought a book on food photography. It soon became obvious to me how little of what I learned I could put into practise with my point and shoot camera. So, right after Christmas, I decided to invest in a DSLR. I'm absolutely loving it and it is definitely one of my greatest investments. Every time I take it with me on a bushwalk, or on a bike ride with my dog, or take photographs of food with it, I am learning something new.

This pavlova wreath was essentially the first photographs I took with my new camera, aside from a few random ones prior when trying to work out how to make the shutter work. These photographs are mostly me not understanding how to work my camera ("how do you photo?"). It's such a steep learning curve, but one I am excited about experiencing.

As a baker, I get asked a lot what my favourite dessert is. Because I enjoy making the complex, most people seem to expect an interesting answer. Some intricate dessert, something complex feat of skill and beauty that is the epitome of perfection on a plate.

It's much more simple than that.

Pavlova

A crisp meringue with a soft, marshmallowy interior. Topped with fresh cream and fruit, I would eat it every day without ever getting sick of it. Most of my favourite desserts, in fact, include fresh fruit. You just can't beat the perfection created by nature in the form of fruit.

Pavlova is a staple at many celebrations in Australia and New Zealand. Such a staple, in fact, that most of us near faint from shock when those from other countries declare they've never heard of it!

The beauty of this dessert is that it is so simple.

Perhaps because of its simplicity, but mostly because of my need to always make something new, I constantly look for ways to change it up a little. Whether it's making individual serves or patterning the exterior, there are limitless options.

This time I decided to make it in wreath form. It looks complex, but the process is simple. It basically involves slapping spoonfuls of meringue onto a baking tray, flattening the top, et voilà! You have yourself a wreath.

While any time is acceptable pavlova time, summer is definitely my favourite time to consume it. Summer berries are just the perfect topping. My original intention was to make this dish for Christmas, and so in keeping with the theme I opted for red bauble-like fruit: strawberries, raspberries and cherries. By the time it came to serve dessert I became acutely aware of how little stomach space there was to fit all the desserts I had planned. The base was baked but I hadn't added the toppings yet, so I made the executive decision to leave this one out.

The undecorated base will keep for some time as long as it is covered and stored in a cool place (not the fridge, as this may make it sweat). In an air tight container, it will last about 5 days undecorated.

You may flavour or sweeten the cream if that is your preference. I tend not to, as the meringue is plenty sweet and the fruit provides more than enough flavour

Here's my go-to pavlova recipe, adapted for wreath form.

Pavlova Wreath

Ingredients

4 egg whites (approx 150ml)
1 cup (220g) caster sugar
2 tbs cornflour (cornstarch)
2 tsp white vinegar
1 cup (250ml) thickened cream
fruit, for topping

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 150­°C (130° fan-forced). Prepare a baking tray large enough to accommodate a 25cm circle (I used a pizza tray). On a piece of baking paper, draw a 25cm circle, and a 15cm circle inside of it. Invert baking paper on the tray so the lead/ink does not come into contact with the meringue.
  2. Beat eggwhites to soft peaks; continue beating, adding the caster sugar one tablespoon at a time. Beat until mixture is stiff and glossy.
  3. Sprinkle vinegar and cornflour over the meringue  then gently fold in until combined.
  4. Using a large dessert spoon, scoop large spoonfuls of meringue onto the tray, using your circle as a guide. Make sure each dollop of meringue comes into contact with the one adjacent, but is spaced enough to give shape to your wreath. Once you have used up all the meringue, use the back of your spoon to flatten the top
  5. Place your meringue in the oven and immediately reduce oven temperature to 120°C (100° fan-forced) and bake for 1 and a half hours. This initial high temperature helps to crisp up the outside of the meringue, while the long, low baking temperature keeps the inside soft.
  6. Once meringue is baked, turn off the oven and allow it to cool inside with the oven door slightly ajar. Allow to cool completely before transferring to a serving platter. Prematurely moving the meringue may result in a shattered exterior
  7. Once meringue is cool, whip cream to soft peaks and dollop on top of the meringue. Arrange fruit on top of the cream, then serve immediately

NB: A decorated pavlova will last about 4 hours before it begins to weep. Leftovers may be stored in the fridge and will keep essentially until the cream spoils, but won’t be as aesthetically pleasing

You'll find the printable version of this recipe here.

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5 thoughts on “Pavlova Wreath

  1. Ooooh, this looks absolutely fantastic! I absolutely want to try this!

    However, I have one question : what do you do with the cornstarch and the vinegar?

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