It was S’s birthday on Saturday. He isn’t one for big fusses, so we didn’t do a whole lot. Went to the market as usual in the morning, taking our time over croissant and coffee. S headed out in the middle of the day while W was sleeping to pick up a homebrew kit, and then we spent the afternoon eating and laying about. For dinner we strolled down the road for fish and chips, enjoying the balmy Brisbane air.
We realised that S is now closer to fifty years old than to twenty. It’s a strange realisation, not least because being twenty only feels like yesterday. It is a world away in some respects (in a nostalgic but also thankful kind of way) but it is hard – for me at least – to imagine myself as anything but a young person. I guess age creeps up on you slowly; perhaps because I’ve never felt too concerned with the number. Turning thirty for me was no big deal. And besides, thirties is still young. Right?!
Usually I would bake S a cake for his birthday, but this year he requested pavlova. I’d never actually made pavlova before and to be honest I was pretty intimidated. It is quite different to the sort of baking that I usually do. I tend to prefer using ingredients like brown sugar, honey, whole grains, and to shy away from anything that involves separating the eggs. But now that I’ve got a KitchenAid the whole can’t-be-fucked-whisking excuse is pretty much bullshit, plus it was S’s birthday and he had requested pavlova.
Turns out, pavolva is not that tricky after all. In fact, it is actually quite easy to make. After much trawling around the interwebs, I narrowed down the key tips to making sure you get a meringue that is crisp on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside (all of which worked for me):
- Make sure your egg whites are at room temperature before whisking (I took mine out of the fridge the evening before)
- Use a very clean whisking bowl
- Sift your sugar and cornflour before adding to the eggs
- Once you’ve turned the oven off leave the pavlova to cool in there for as long as possible (a good few hours, if you have the time)
Topping-wise, I took my inspiration from these gorgeous mini-pav’s on i am a food blog, but I went with a big pavlova to make the whole thing more like a birthday-cake, and I added a touch of rosewater to the cream to really give it a Persian twist. In the end, it was fucking delicious – no longer will I be scared of the pavlova.
Happy birthday, lovely S.
Raspberry, Pistachio & Rosewater Pavlova
5 egg whites, room temperature
250gm caster sugar
1/2 tsp white vinegar
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1 tbsp cornflour
1 1/2 cups cream
3 tsp icing sugar
1 tsp rosewater
1 punnet fresh raspberries
Handful (approx. 15) pistachios
White chocolate, to decorate (optional)
Preheat oven to 200 degrees and prepare a baking tray by lining it with baking paper and tracing a large circle on it.
In a clean bowl start whisking your eggs on a medium speed. When they start to form peaks add the sugar in a steady stream (without stopping the whisk) and turn it up to a high speed. Keep on whisking until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture is thick and glossy. Turn the speed back down to medium and add the vinegar and vanilla essence, whisking only a few more times to mix through. Remove the whisk from the bowl and sprinkle the cornflour over the top, using a spatula to very gently fold the cornflour in.
Spoon the mixture onto the prepare tray and smooth into a circle, working quickly to get the meringue in the oven as soon as possible. Pop the meringue on the middle shelf of the oven and immediately turn the heat down to 120 degrees. Bake for 90 minutes, then turn the oven off and leave the meringue inside, with the door shut, until cool. Once removed from oven, if you are not using it straight away store in an airtight container up to a day or two ahead.
When you’re ready to eat the pavlova, assemble it all together. Start by shelling the pistachios and crushing them in a mortar & pestle. Using a vege peeler, make the white chocolate curls by peeling strips off of a block. Set aside with the crushed nuts. In a large bowl mix the cream, icing sugar, and rosewater. Whisk until thick and firm. Pile the cream onto the meringue, leaving a small border around the edge. Heap the raspberries on top of the cream and then sprinkle over the whole lot with the pistachios and white chocolate curls.