This is a fantastic dessert or celebration cake. I make it a lot as it has become the signature dish for my cookery school, Take 2 Eggs. It’s nowhere near as scary to make as you might think, and the response when you bring it to the table makes it all the more worthwhile.
When you’re making meringue, I always think it’s a good idea to add a pinch of salt and a drizzle of cider vinegar or lemon juice to the egg whites. The salt will help firm up the proteins, giving better peaks, while the vinegar will stabilise the egg whites and help hold the bubbles created when beating. Also, make sure the egg whites are at room temperature.
Here are a few tricks you might like to employ when assembling the pavlova. First, place a dollop of the curd or cream onto your serving plate before placing the first meringue layer on top; this will stick it to the plate and make the spreading of the curd easier. Next, don’t be tempted to assemble it too far in advance (wait until no more than an hour before), as it will start to go soggy. Once assembled, keep it in a cool place (not the fridge).
Now, I’m not going to lie to you – it is not the easiest thing to serve. Make the first cut as you would with any cake, but instead of serving a whole slice, which is much too big anyway, remove the top half of the wedge as one portion and the bottom half as another portion. Place a shard or two of the sugar stained glass into each piece and you are good to go.
The lemon curd should be made the day before to allow it to set properly. This recipe makes about 3 cups (750 ml) of lemon curd.
300 ml thickened cream, whipped
8 egg whites
pinch of salt
400 g caster sugar
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
180 g unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups (330 g) caster sugar
grated zest and juice of 4 lemons
4 egg yolks
2/3 cup (150 g) caster sugar
1/3 cup (75 g) fine brown sugar
To make the lemon curd, place the butter, sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan and begin to melt over medium heat, stirring with a whisk.
Gently beat the 4 eggs and 4 egg yolks together with a whisk. Pour into the saucepan and stir continually until the eggs are cooked and the curd has thickened. This will take about 10 minutes. Be careful that your heat is not too high as you run the risk of the eggs curdling. • Pour the curd into a bowl and mix in the lemon zest.
Place plastic film on the surface of the curd to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate. It will keep for a week to 10 days in the refrigerator.
To make the sugar-stained glass shards, line a baking tray with baking paper. Use a fine sieve to sprinkle the caster sugar evenly over the top, then spread the brown sugar randomly over that. Place under a hot grill or in a hot (200°C) oven and heat for approximately 10–15 minutes until the sugars have caramelised and appear clear.
Remove from the grill or oven and allow to cool and harden, then lightly drop the tray on your work surface to shatter the sugar-stained glass into random shards. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 120°C and line two baking trays with baking paper.
Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites with the salt until stiff peaks form. Gradually add the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, allowing the mixture to become stiff and glossy. Halfway through adding the sugar, mix in the vinegar and vanilla.
Carefully pipe or spread the meringue into five or six mounds on the baking trays, about 2.5 cm high and about 20 cm in diameter. If you’re using a piping bag, start in the middle and work your way out, making sure there are no gaps.
Bake for 1 hour, or until the meringues are crisp but not coloured, then turn off the oven and leave to cool (in the oven) for about 1 hour.
To assemble your pavlova, place the first meringue layer onto a serving plate and spread a thin layer of lemon curd evenly over it. Spread a thin layer of whipped cream on top.
Place your second meringue layer carefully on top of the cream and repeat with a layer of curd and cream. Repeat until you have used all meringue layers. With the final layer of meringue, place dollops of whipped cream randomly on top and place your sugar-stained glass shards into them.
Recipe and images taken from The Best of Gretta Anna with Martin Teplitzky, published by Penguin, $49.99.
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