Pavlovas are simply the most beautiful of all the summer desserts. Whether piped or swirled, when crowned with swathes of softly whipped cream and the season’s best soft fruits, they look regal and taste magnificent. Plus, for all the grandeur of their appearance, they are deceitful in their ease of preparation. You can do each of the stages a day or two before and assemble before dinner, allowing the completed pav to chill in the fridge and the cream to soften the meringue beneath it. As grocers shelves are finally bursting with fresh, plump and fragrant summer fruits, I’ve indulged mine and Hungry Hubby’s love of all things cherry in my Cherry & Vanilla Pavlova.
Standard pavlova recipes instruct you to bake the pav in a smoothed over mound shape and the quantities tend to be rather gargantuan. They certainly would feed a large family gathering! For my family, that’s a BBQ in my parent’s garden. I’ve reduced the quantities considerably to about 3-4 egg whites and with sheer delight in my heart, have busted out my Mrs Whippy Nifty Nozzle to pipe rows of rosettes, with the intention of each one feeding one person. Still a feast for the eyes but a far more measured portion, considering the volume of sugar and cream we are indulging in here. I love how when you pipe out the pav and cream using this nozzle, in a rectangle, that it looks like a Viennetta! (A much loved frozen, store-bought ice cream cake for non-UK readers).
As there is no such thing as enough cherry or vanilla in my world, I have included both flavours in each of the main elements of this dessert. That means adding freeze dried cherry powder to the meringue mixture, along with some vanilla paste (which has the seeds of the vanilla pod in and add to the visual appeal). The fruit powder tints the pav pink as well as giving fruity flavour and I rather love the little flecks of dried cherry give the appearance of thick, heavy gauge paper with rose petals pressed into it that you see in fancy stationers.
Let’s be honest – as wonderful and marshmallow-middled a proper pav is, it is the lavish topping with fresh cream that makes them worthwhile ;). I am a dairy product lover and even though I have piped out a generous amount of cream onto my cherry pav, my family would think it remiss if there wasn’t a jug of pouring cream to serve with it too, so do bear that in mind if your loved ones are similarly gluttonous when buying your supplies!
When cherries finally arrive on the scene here in England for another summer season, I must admit it’s hard not to simply stuff my face with them fresh and cold from the fridge. They are a very pricey berry but when plump, taut-skinned and sweet inside, they are hard to say no too. My extensive bakewell and cherry recipe archives, you might have guessed Hungry Hubby adores them too! It hasn’t been much of a hardship testing and re-testing this recipe for either of us, I can tell you that for free… 😉 Do take the time to reduce the syrup from the cherries when you make the compote so you can drizzle it (or let your loved ones top their own pavs) with abandon and watch it trickle down the ripples of cream and chewy centred pavlova rosettes.
Top Tips for Perfect Pavs
And psst, the point of pavlova is to have a crisp but thin shell to the exterior and a marshmallow textured middle, with a hint of chew to it. You achieve this through the additions of cornflour and vinegar to the mixture and rather than “cooking” the pav, you dry it out in a low heat for a long period of time. Cooling in the oven stops it cracking. Plus, you want to make sure that the sugar crystals have dissolved when you are whisking the mixture together or they will weep and seep out upon baking. This could take 8-10 minutes of high speed mixing in a stand mixer.
The summer dessert of kings. Make the most of fresh cherries in the summer months or frozen ones in the winter.
- 100 g egg whites (I use frozen egg whites I've thawed or cartons of pasteurised egg whites)
- 150 g caster sugar
- 2 tbsp freeze dried cherry powder (you can use freeze dried pieces or slices but grind them in a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle)
- 1 tsp cornflour
- 1/2 tsp cider or white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp vanilla paste or seeds from a pod
- 300 g fresh cherries (or frozen when not in season)
- 50 g caster sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla paste or extract
- 1 tbsp Chambord, Kirsch or Framboise (optional)
- 300 ml double or whipping cream
- 1 tsp vanilla paste or extract
Start by wiping out your bowl and whisk with a piece of kitchen paper damp with a little lemon juice or vinegar to remove any traces of grease. Preheat the oven to 120˚C. Line a baking tray with baking parchment.
Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks in a stand mixer or use electric hand beaters. You would work up a sweat doing pavlova by hand!
Meanwhile, take 1 tbsp of the caster sugar and grind it with your freeze dried cherries - I do it easily in a mortar and pestle but you can use a coffee grinder. Reserve for now.
With the stand mixer on medium speed, whisk in the caster sugar a spoonful at a time then add the reserved cherry powder and sugar. Continue to whisk on high until the sugar has fully dissolved into the egg whites. Stop occasionally to rub a little meringue between your fingers - if it is grainy, continue whisking another couple of minutes and check again.
When ready, add the cornflour, vinegar and vanilla and use the whisk to mix them in. The meringue should be very stiff, thick and glossy at this point.
Fit a piping bag with a large open star nozzle (if not using my favourite Mrs Whippy nozzle) and scoop in the meringue. Pipe out 8 rosettes in a 2 by 4 arrangement. Leave half an inch of space between them to allow for expansion in the oven and make sure you pipe each 4-5 inches high as they will sink a little on cooking. Fill in any large gaps between the rosettes with leftover pav mixture.
Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes until dried out to the touch. Allow the pavlova to cool fully in the oven - doing this the night before is handy just don't forget it's in there the next day!
Reserve 8 fresh cherries to garnish the pavlova later.
If using fresh cherries, de-stalk and stone them. Leave them whole, slice in half or chop as preferred - I personally halve them. Add the sugar and 1 tbsp of water and bring to the boil. Stirring constantly, cook at a simmer for 5-10 minutes until the fruit has slumped and softened (this is quicker using frozen cherries, and you don't need to thaw them first).
Using a slotted spoon, remove the cooked cherries to a bowl and reduce the syrup in the saucepan by to a third of it's volume (you will have 1-2 tbsp left when it's ready). Add the vanilla and liqueur if using and pour over the fruit. Cover and chill until needed.
Place the pav gently on a serving plate, platter, slate or tray as preferred. It should slide off the parchment with little encouragement.
Reserve 1-2 tbsp of the cream, add the vanilla and whip to soft peaks. If you have gone too far and it's stiff, stir in the reserved cream (I always go too far with cream so if you are more reserved in your whipping, you may dispense with this step!).
Fit a piping bag with the same (but cleaned out) nozzle as you used before and pipe rosettes on top of the pavlova. Spoon over a little of the chilled cherry compote and top with a fresh cherry. Any compote left over should be popped in a bowl for your loved ones to spoon into their bowls as they eat.
You can make the pavlova and compote a day ahead. Once assembled, the pavlova should be kept in the fridge and used within 2 days. You can portion it up (or leave it whole) and freeze it successfully too but leave off the fresh cherries for garnish until ready to serve. Thaw in the fridge for at least 4 hours and again, using within 48 hours of thawing.
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