Saturday, 24 December 2011

nan-made treats are always best

Christmas really is just around the corner, with only a few hours to countdown until we can hear the exciting patter of reindeer hooves on our roofs!  So, I thought I’d get in one more burst of culinary festivity before it all begins tomorrow morning and enlist the help of a very special lady – the queen of cooking herself – my grandmother.

We figured that dessert was what was missing from our Christmas Day, so after taking a peek at the hand-me-down cookbook that she had given me a few years back; I found something both Christmassy and delicious…


Creamy with a sugary crunch, it seemed like the perfect treat to sink our now-white teeth into come Christmas. And especially as Australia has a summer Chrissy, fresh fruit and cream is always a winner by the beach with champers!

Here are our merry little delights, topped with fresh berries, passionfruit pulp and kiwifruit.

If you’re in the mood to get a bit jolly, and your Christmas table has an empty place that a pavlova would look divine in, these gorgeous little things take only two hours to whip up! So if this sounds like the perfect remedy for your Christmas sweet tooth, read on for the recipe and step-by-step photos!

Festive Mini Pavlovas

25 mins preparation
1 - 1 1/2 hrs baking, plus cooling

Makes 8 pavlovas
(For one large pavlova, spread the meringue mixture into a 23cm round)

  • Electric mixer

Ingredients (Pavlova)
  • 4 large egg whites
  • Large pinch of salt
  • 250g (1 cup) caster sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar (this isn’t actually a cream at all, which caused a lot of confusion at first. Despite the deceptive name, it’s actually a powder, and can be found in supermarkets next to baking powder and baking soda)
Ingredients (Filling & Decoration)
  • 300ml carton fresh cream
  • 4 teaspoons caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla flavouring essence
  • Icing sugar for dusting
  • Variety of colourful fruit*
*For Christmas I suggest berries and mango always go down a treat. If you’re feeling a little bit fancy, fresh mint leaves will look gorgeous atop a pav as well. Although keep in mind that if you choose to use juicy toppings like kiwifruit, give it a quick pat-down with paper towel to stop the moisture seeping into your pavlova crust. No one wants to dig into a soggy mess!


1. Preheat oven to 140 °C (fan-forced ovens mustn’t have been invented when this book was published, but if your oven is a fan-forced like mine, pop the temperature at about 125°C).  Line two baking trays with non-stick baking paper. 

Mark four 7.5cm circles on each piece of paper (a total of eight circles for those not mathematically talented like me), spaced well apart, to allow for spreading during baking. Those measurements are a bit ambiguous, and don’t elaborate if the 7.5cm applies to the diameter or radius of the circle. Turns out they don’t matter much, just as long as you have enough room on two trays for eight meringues (allow some space for spreadage).

time to get your old school compass and ruler out!
2. In a clean, polished bowl, whisk egg whites and salt with an electric mixer until stiff (again, my good ol’ hand beater made an appearance here. Boxing day I am buying an electric beater. I’ve had enough!). Ensure the bowl and whisk are clean and dry, otherwise the egg whites won’t whisk up stiffly.  

tip: leave your eggs out of the fridge; they whisk up much better at room temperature.
when I started beating, nan suggested tilting the bowl by putting a tea towel underneath to make it easier.
as usual, nanna knows best!

3. Gradually add the sugar whisking constantly at top speed, until very stiff and glossy. (My hand beater had by now kicked the bucket, so hopefully there’s enough air in our meringues that they don’t sink!) Whisk in the cream of tartar. 

The mixture is stiff enough to add the sugar in if you can create little Mr. Whippy peaks like this.

Spoon mixture evenly into the eight circles and spread to within the marked lines. 

Hollow out the centres to give room for the filling. We spread the meringue using a butter knife to create the bowl shape; make sure you don’t dig, or you’ll knock out all the air you spent beating into it!

Tip: cut the empty spaces on the baking paper out so the corners wouldn't fold over onto the meringues.
4. Bake for 1 – 1 ½ hours, or until dry. Leave to cool in the oven with the door ajar. 

Transfer to a wire cooling rack.

5. Whip the cream, sugar and vanilla until the mixture just holds its shape. 

My festive tinsel-themed fingernails; red with glitter polish tips!
Make sure you don't mix it too much, or you'll end up with butter!!
To smooth out any lumps, use a butter knife and gently smooth and fold the cream.

Spoon into the meringues.  

6. Arrange the fruit on top of the filling.

Make sure to pat dry your washed fruit so your pavlova crust stays crisp and crunchy!

When preparing kiwifruit, cut slices along the body of the fruit, then use the point of the knife to trace along the inside of the skin, then push the fruit out.
I used passionfruit, blackberries, raspberries, kiwifruit and blueberries, plus some sprigs of fresh mint.

 And there you have it! (Gosh, I sound like one of those television chefs! How embarrassing haha).

So, if I could do it, you’ve got no excuse to get baking chickadees, and like me, soon you’ll be hustling your bustle over to the plate of pavlovas and cutting yourself self a sneaky slice of goodness! 

Have a beautiful Christmas full of laughter and joy, and I’ll see you all after the silly season!


This recipe was taken from Successful Baking Cookbook (Chapter 10, Delicious and Decadent Desserts, card 15).

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