Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere is a time for two things. Wreaths, and pavlova. We’ve combined the two with our own take on this summer dessert fave – a Christmas Pavlova Wreath! You’ll impress your guests with this beautiful dessert any time of the year. When it’s not a Christmas event, heap the meringue mixture into one large disc, add the cream on top and pile high with seasonal fruit, try mango and passionfruit for a delicious alternate combination.
There are a few things that can go wrong when working with egg whites. But there’s nothing to worry about, and we’ve got a few tips to help you succeed when making a meringue into a delicious pavlova.
[x_custom_headline type=”left” level=”h2″ looks_like=”h5″]why do meringues crack or collapse?[/x_custom_headline]
Meringue is whipped egg whites and sugar. Like any foam, in circumstances the whipped egg whites and sugar can lose their structure and dissipate leaving you with a bowl full of bright white sugary soup. Any trace of fat will break down the air in the egg whites, so before you start whipping your meringue wash everything in hot, soapy water. Dry very well, then use lemon juice (fresh from a cut lemon) or white vinegar and a paper towel to wipe down your bowl, spatula, and whisk (or whisk attachments).
Whip slowly. We’re all in a rush, but egg whites beaten too quickly will form big, unstable bubbles that are more likely to pop and can cause your meringue to collapse. Start on a low speed until the whites are foamy, increase to medium, and avoid increasing the speed above medium high for perfectly whipped egg whites.
You’ll see that we add vinegar to our meringue mixture once we’ve whipped it up. The vinegar helps to protect the structure of your whipped egg whites, and keep them lovely and foamy.
Using egg white powder is also a great way to ensure a stable and strong foam for your meringue. Use 2 tsp of egg white powder to 2 tbsp of water to replace one liquid egg white. You don’t need egg white powder for a successful meringue though, fresh egg whites are perfect for making meringue!
Cleaning your bowl and equipment with vinegar or lemon juice before you get started, whipping slowly, adding vinegar to your mix after whipping, and using fresh egg whites will help to prevent your meringue from collapsing or cracking.
Finally, after all that work, your oven can let you down. Meringues that cool too quickly, or cook too quickly can crack. Remember to leave your meringue in the oven after turning off the oven, prop the door open with a wooden spoon or leave the door ajar. The meringue will cool slowly with the oven. If you’ve got an oven that’s very hot at the back, you may end up with cracks at the back of your meringue, carefully turn your meringue during cooking as you would with a cake and you should prevent over cooking and cracking your meringue.
[x_custom_headline type=”left” level=”h2″ looks_like=”h5″]Christmas Pavlova Wreath[/x_custom_headline]
Our Christmas Pavlova Wreath uses brown sugar in place of caster sugar for a delicious caramel flavoured meringue. Whip your whites to stiff peaks before adding your sugar. The step by step images below show the difference between soft peaks (left) and stiff peaks (right). You’ll know that you’ve reached stiff peaks when you’re comfortable that you could hold your bowl upside down and the whites wouldn’t slop out. Don’t try it though! Stiff egg whites are not immune to gravity, they can still fall out of the bowl!
6 egg whites
400g light brown sugar
1 tsp white vinegar
600ml thickened cream
1 tbsp vanilla bean paste, or
1 tsp vanilla extract
Fresh berries and fruit, washed – we used;
1 punnet raspberries
1 punnet blueberries
2 punnets strawberries, chopped and whole
1 large punnet cherries
The night before…
Pre-heat your oven to 150 degrees celcius. Wipe your bowl and utensils with a little vinegar or lemon juice.
Starting on low speed, whip egg whites until they’re foamy, increase the speed to medium and whip until the whites form stiff peaks.
Add the light brown sugar one table spoon at a time, mixing for approximately 20 seconds between each tablespoon of sugar. This allows the sugar to dissolve so you don’t end up with a grainy meringue.
Once all the sugar is added, add the white vinegar, mix for a few seconds, scrape the sides and increase the speed to medium-high. Your meringue should be thick and glossy, it will stick to your whisk and hold it’s shape in a stiff peak. You should confident that you’d be able to hold the bowl upside down without the egg white slopping out or dripping.
Trace around the bottom of a 20cm cake tin onto a piece of baking paper. Turn the baking paper over so that the traced side is face down, and use a little of the meringue mixture to hold the paper to the baking tray.
Use an ice cream scoop, or spoon, to dollop even amounts of the brown sugar meringue mixture onto the baking paper following the ring that you traced. Put the meringue on the line rather than inside, or outside, or you won’t have enough mixture to make two meringue wreaths.
Use a butter knife or palette knife to smooth and flatten the top of your wreath, this will be the bottom.
Repeat to make your top layer. Use your scoop or spoon to flatten the meringue a little without changing the shape. You should still have obvious dollop shapes.
Bake for 30 minutes (turning half way if your oven has hot spots). Turn off the oven, prop oven the door, and allow to cool completely in the oven.
When you’re ready to serve…
Wash all of your berries in cold water. We left the pips and stems in the cherries and the green tops on some of the strawberries because it looks pretty, but you can remove them – especially if young children will be eating your Christmas Pavlova Wreath.
Whip your cream until it’s thick and dollop-able (technical term). Be careful not to over whip, or you’ll end up with butter. Stir through the vanilla bean paste or extract. Don’t sweeten your cream, you’re serving it with what is essentially whipped sugar, it doesn’t need sweetening!
Add half the cream to the bottom, flattened wreath, and top with chopped strawberries. Add the top meringue wreath, and cover with the remaining cream. If it seems like too much, you can always serve in a bowl on the side for your guests to use if they want more.
Top your wreath with the remaining berries. To get a similar look to our pavlova wreath, add your large berries first, and work up to smaller berries. Allow them to overlap, and finish by ‘sprinkling’ blueberries. The blueberries will fall into the gaps and fill out your berry topping!
Best eaten immediately, and that’s not going to be difficult to do!