Monday, 13 January 2014

Showstopper Pavlova

This is dish is the perfect party dish, a fantastic focal point for any pudding table, and, importantly, a breeze to whip up. 

It is a little retro but there is something timelessly opulent about the glossy peaks of meringue.This one isn't just pretty though, it really packs a punch and is a far cry from those rather anaemic, cream-filled desserts that grace supermarket shelves and school canteens. 

The secret ingredients are curd cheese and Drambuie, giving the filling a tartness that cuts through the meringue and a luxurious boozy finish that leaves you wanting another helping. The alarming rate at which this pudding disappears is testament to the above.

I cannot claim credit for the recipe since it is one of my catering client’s classics that I make for her Christmas party every year. I have however improved the meringue to filling ratio, and added my own Italian meringue method for greater stability when trying to assemble the layers.

Recipe (serves 20)

For the Filling

This is best made a few hours before serving but can be made the evening before if kept refrigerated.

500g curd cheese
130g caster sugar
4 tablespoons soured cream
4-6 tablespoons Drambuie (to taste)
300ml double cream
Berries (see end of recipe)

Whisk together the curd cheese, soured cream and sugar (an electric whisk makes life a bit easier). The curd cheese will loosen with whisking.

In a separate bowl, whisk the double cream until it forms peaks but taking care not to over-whisk to the point of it separating / becoming granular.

Mix the curd cheese mix into the double cream and stir in the Drambuie. The mix is now ready. Keep in the fridge until needed.

For the Meringues


900g caster sugar

450g free range egg whites
3 tsp rosewater (should be in the baking section of a large supermarket)


Preheat oven to 200C/Gas mark 6.

Spread sugar evenly on large oven tray lined with baking sheet. Place in the heated up oven for 8 minutes (you should start to see it dissolving at the edges)

Meanwhile, whisk the eggs with an electric whisk on high speed for 1 min or so, so the whites really froth up.

Decant the hot sugar into a bowl and add slowly while whisking the whites.

Add the rosewater and keep whisking on high speed for 10 minutes until it is completely cool. It should then be very silky and keep its shape.

Turn the oven down to 110C. Line a baking tray, sticking the baking sheet down with a few dabs of meringue mix between it and the baking tray.

Draw around a 20cm cake tin on a sheet of greaseproof paper that you have stuck to a baking tray using dabs of the meringue mix. Scoop half of the mix into the middle of the circle and work the mix outwards with a large metal spoon until it fills (or goes over) the circle in random, sweeping peaks. I like to make two peaked meringue circles, decide which I prefer and then smooth out the other one with a spoon so that it can form the bottom layer easily.

Place in the preheated oven and leave for about 2 hours, check if they are done by tapping them to see if they sound hollow. If not, cook for longer. Turn the oven off and leave the meringues in the oven while it cools for several hours. This makes them easier to lift off. If you will need the oven in the meantime, just let the meringues cool out of the oven but make sure they really do sound hollow when you tap them. 

To assemble: 

Extra ingredients:
2 punnets of blueberries
2 punnets raspberries
1 punnet of red currents to decorate

To assemble, place the flat meringue on a plate. Spoon the filling mix into the middle of the meringue, spread it out evenly with a spatula. Scatter half of the berries (excluding the red currents) over the cream filling. 

Carefully place the top layer of meringue on top of the layer of filling (if it breaks a little it should still be able to sit on top of it. 

Sprinkle berries over the top of it and dust with icing sugar.

As you can see from the picture below, I didn't have red currents or icing sugar but it looks even prettier when you do