My signature mini pavlova recipe with perfectly crunchy texture outside, marshmallow texture inside served with refreshing cream and fruit filling. Pavlova is naturally gluten-free, in fact the recipe using only a few ingredients you probably already have at home. Having said that, it is not the one cup this, half cup that type of recipe. Making pavlova is not difficult, does not take much time, however similarly to most meringue based recipes, it needs attention, accuracy and a bit of practice.
There are a 2 typical visual mistakes one can make while baking pavlova
- Pavlova is cracked - so many people claim to have the perfect pavlova recipe and many of these pavlovas are full of cracks, some even broken into half. It's a big NO! I will take you through bellow on all the necessary details you have to know to avoid cracks on your pavlova
- Pavlova is browning - another typical mistake caused by quite obviously too high oven temperature. Still, so many recipes out there state high oven temperate, well not this one!
My Top 5 Baking Tips for home bakers
- Read the recipe carefully including my tips and recommendations on how to avoid and fix typical issues during baking
- Avoid using substitutes and changing the recipe unless you are aware of how to fully reformulate the recipe in order to keep the balance in texture as well as flavour. Reducing sugar, replacing egg, using ingredients not on the right temperature etc. will all have an impact on your baking
- For consistent, happy baking experience always measure your ingredients with the help of a Digital scale. Cup measurement is provided as an indicative figure only and might be used for less complex and large batch recipes however it is not an appropriate method for more delicate, complex pastries
- Did you know that most home ovens can significantly under or oven run? Also, oven temperature hugely drops when opening the oven door therefore it is recommended to always pre-heat the oven above the required baking temperature.
- Temperature is so important when it comes to baking and accurate oven temperature is key, can make or break any recipe especially when it comes to meringues. Make sure you invest into an inexpensive Digital oven thermometer to avoid under baked, burnt, sad looking desserts
Let’s start with some important notes regarding the ingredients of this pavlova recipe
For the pavlova
- Egg white: Room temperature fresh egg white is the heart of the pavlova. Make sure you use egg whites that are absolutely free from any sort of fat (e.g. egg yolk). If you get some egg yolk into the egg white, start again. Believe me, you can't make a successful meringue and pavlova with that batch unfortunately. After the egg white whipped up until stiff, shiny peaks, it is important to work/pipe relatively fast and place the meringue into the oven as soon as possible. On room temperature, especially on a warm day, the meringue starts to loose its volume quickly
- Superfine sugar: There are a couple of important notes regarding the sugar.
- No.1. If you have tried any of my recipes before you must have realized that I am not using an excessive amount of sugar. Instead, I am all about balancing flavours and let them shy. However, in case of pavlova we need a lot of sugar to keep the structure of the meringue . Sugar in this case is not really a sweetener but more like a glue, if it makes sense?
- No.2. You must use superfine sugar which has smaller crystals than regular granulated sugar therefore dissolves quickly while beating up the egg white into meringue. If you can't find superfine sugar in your local supermarket, pulse regular white sugar in food processor until the sugar crystals get smaller, however make sure you don't make powder sugar out of it.
- No. 3. Sugar needs to be added to the egg white very slowly, one table spoon at a time while the mixer is on otherwise it might get crystallised and you have to start the whole process all over again! If want to learn about the different types of sugar and how to use them in baking, please read my article in here
- Cream of tartar (optional): It helps stabilise whipped egg whites and prevents sugar from crystallising. If you are an experienced baker and perfectly know how to make meringue perhaps you can leave it out. I hardly ever use i
- Food colouring (optional): It is not absolutely necessary but I love playing with colours. As a general rule you add as little "extra things" to the meringue as possible to avoid breaking it. This is especially important when it comes to liquid ingredients (I don't even add vanilla extract for the same reason). Gel food colouring can work if you don't use an extensive amount however the powder food colouring is the most risk-free
- White Vinegar (optional): Similar function as cream of tartar, it's all about the perfect meringue! The pavlova won't taste vinegar, I promise!
- Cornstarch (optional): It helps to achieve the marshmallow centre and again, stabilise the meringue
How to fill pavlova
Filling pavlova is really up to your taste! After nailing the pavlova technique, you can make both the pavlova and also the filling in as many variation as you wish. However, bear in mind that pavlova is effectively egg white and a lot of sugar. Therefore from a taste point of I suggest something refreshing. I recommend using fresh fruits, fruit compote, lemon curd or even sugar-free cream. Try to play with the colours, textures, and decorate it with mint, lemon slice, berries, etc.
Let’s continue with my top 7 tips about the technique of this easy Pavlova recipe
1. What is the difference between French, Italian and Swiss meringue?
Generally there are 3 ways of making meringue, French, Italian and Swiss. There is no such thing as one is easier or better than the other. Deciding which one to make usually it comes down to personal preference and final usage of the meringue.
In the French method egg white is whipped while fine sugar is added to it gradually until stiff peaks. This pavlova recipe is made using the French method.
The Italian method involves whisking the egg whites with a hot sugar syrup (at a set temperature) to form the meringue. I am using Italian meringue method for example to make macarons, check my macaron recipe out in here.
The Swiss method involves heating sugar and egg white over double boiler until sugar fully dissolves then whipping the mixture into meringue. I am using Swiss method to make spooky Ghost meringues, check it out in here and also for making lemon meringue loaf, recipe in here.
2. How to make French meringue for this Pavlova recipe
Whipping egg white is probably the most important step of making this pavlova recipe. Make sure you use fresh, room temp egg white that is absolutely free from any sort of fat (e.g. egg yolk). If you get some egg yolk into the egg white in the process of separating, start again.
Worth to be well organized before you start the meringue making process. Prepare your Piping bag, tray with parchment paper or a Silicone baking mat, an Offset spatula or some sort of spoon to shape the meringue, a Rubber spatula to be able to fold the meringue without damaging. Also, start pre-heating your oven and ideally use a Digital oven thermometer to be on the safe side.
While whipping egg white start your Stand mixer on low speed then increase gradually. If you are using cream of tartar, you should use it at this point. Once texture looks bubble, add in vinegar then increase the speed to medium / high and start adding superfine sugar very slowly, a small amount at a time. Scrape the sugar from the side of the mixer bowl every now and then, if needed.
It is very important that you whip egg white until stiff, shiny peaks since you will need to pipe and shape the meringue and that requires stable consistency.
If you are using food colouring, remember the safest option is to stick to powder. Add food colouring for the last 10-20seconds of whipping the egg white.
If you are using cornstarch, you must quickly fold that in after whipping egg white and before piping.
3. How to shape pavlova
First and foremost it is important that you have your baking tray with parchment paper or a Silicone baking mat prepared ahead. After your stiff, steady meringue is ready there is no time to wonder around.
This quantity will make 2 x 10cm / 4inches mini pavlovas. Start by piping the bottom of the pavlova then 3-4 few more layers just around the side, aim to have a hole in the middle for the filling. It does not have to be perfect as once finished with piping, grab your Offset spatula and continue with shaping the pavlova as per the pictures below. Focus on the side while keeping a hole in the middle. Remember, you will only be able to shape the pavlova if it has the right consistency, that is fluffy, stable and stiff.
4. What is the right temperature to bake Pavlova
First of all, have your oven pre-heated, as always.
Apart from inappropriate meringue technique the most common mistake with meringue is baking it on too high temperature which results in browned, cracked surface. While baking meringue basically we have to think more like drying than baking. I used to bake meringue on 100C but now went down to 85C-90C / 185-194 F and that is what I recommend to you as well. Dry them in this low temperature for 90 minutes then leave the door open very slightly (1cm) and let them rest and cool down in the oven. This will ensure beautiful light colour and crack free surface!
Please note that on a warm or humid day meringue loses its structure on room temperature and might gets sticky. Same applies after filling the pavlovas. That is unfortunately normal so make sure you do not leave them out in the humid kitchen for days.
One other important thing to consider is your REAL oven temperature. What do I mean on that? Check my oven for example:
16C / 60F difference is huge (and not unusual). For meringue, which is baked on really low temperature, inappropriate baking temperature can cause a real disaster. I can not highlight enough how important to get to know your own oven and purchase an inexpensive Digital oven thermometer. It might not solve all the problem in the world but certainly will increase the chances to become a more successful home baker.
5. How to fill and decorate Pavlova
Let's be honest pavlova is effectively egg white and sugar so in my view the filling and decoration is what makes a pavlova into truly celebrational dessert. As mentioned above I definitely recommend to keep it low in terms of sugar level, I would avoid fillings like chocolate, caramel etc.
Fresh fruit, some herbs like mint or rosemary, a tangy lemon curd (my recipe in here, try it!), fresh berries or sugar-free whipped cream with a tiny bit of vanilla. Try to make it colourful, perhaps use your favourite piping nozzle and decorate with edible flours!
6. What equipment is needed to bake this Pavlova recipe
Not much equipment is needed it make this Pavlova recipe, however there are a few basics.
As mentioned above a Stand mixer will make your life easier so I definitely recommend using that for preparing meringue. With hand mixer, simply it would take way too long.
Rubber spatula is really a must for a Home Baker at any level. Whenever a recipe states “folding” we mean “with a rubber spatula” to avoid breaking the batter. This method is extra important while handling meringue so you definitely need one.
For piping I used Piping bag without nozzle, perhaps you can make it with a spoon too.
Did I mention Digital oven thermometer? Yes, I did and you know why:)
7. Some other pavlova designs
The beauty of learning how to make Pavlovas is that you can literally make it in any shape, format, colour with any fillings of your choice!
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Now let´s see the recipe of this Pavlova!
Pavlova recipe that works
- 60 g Egg whites approx. whites of 2 eggs
- 120 g Super fine sugar
- ½ teaspoon Cream of tartar optional
- 1 teaspoon Corn starch optional
- Powder food colouring optional
- ½ teaspoon White vinegar optional
- Decorate with cream and fresh fruit
US customary cup measurement is an indicative figure only. Measure the ingredients with a digital scale by weight (gram). Baking is art but also science which requires precision and accuracy.
- Make sure all the equipment are absolutely clean and dry, any small fat or even a tiny bit of egg yolk can ruin the meringue. Arrange the equipment ahead around you
- If don't have super fine sugar at hand, pulse bland granulated sugar for a few seconds in food processor
- Start whisking room temp, fresh egg white in a Stand mixer with cream of tartar (optional) on low speed for a few minutes until bubbly
- Add in vinegar (if using) now
- Then very slowly, one table spoon at a time start adding the sugar while mixer on medium / high speed
- Once all the sugar added, start whisking the meringue on higher speed until it becomes glossy and achieve stiff peaks. The meringue is ready when the sugar completely dissolved. Take a small amount between your fingers, if it is grainy, keep whisking. If ready, add in food colouring (ideally powder) at this point and which for another 15 seconds
- Once the mixture coloured, immediately but gently fold in corn starch with the help of a Rubber spatula, be careful not to deflate the meringue
- Pipe 2 x 10 cm diameter disk, then pipe more meringue around the side then shape with an Offset spatula. Focus on the side and make sure you leave a hole in the middle for the filling
- Bake for 90 min in 90C / 194F , do not open the oven door
- When the pavlova baked, open the door slightly (1 cm) and let the pavlova cool down in the oven for a few hours
- Since pavlova contains a fair amount of sugar, decorate with something less sugary, e.g. cream and fresh fruit