The pressure to come up with a healthier version of the sugar-laden pavlova has been more of a mission than I first anticipated. This pressure was totally self created of-course. Should I make it with coconut sugar instead of caster sugar? No sorry can’t be done as there is too much moisture in coconut sugar. What about ground nuts to provide extra nutrition? I tossed and turned about this one for several hours, no I decided this wouldn’t be a true pavlova. I know, I will top it with whipped coconut cream – 4 cans later I decide this is getting a bit excessive as we try to come up with ways to use up all the half cans of coconut milk in the fridge. However I did keep with the dairy-free theme here with a velvety cashew coconut cream topping.
To be fair, I like a challenge and learned a fair amount along the way. And I did manage to reduce the sugar by about half of most of the recipes I read. Though to do this I needed to make mini pavlovas as my first attempt of a full sized pav with less sugar lost all it’s height. While mini versions stay tall and perky with less sugar. Incidentally you can easily reduce the sugar content but the more you reduce it the less ‘crisp meringue’ crust is achieved. So the pavlova here has a lovely marshmallow-y centre with a light meringue crust. If it is a thick meringue crust you so desire then you will need to increase to 1 cup (225g) sugar. The key with reducing the sugar I found from my research is to match the weight of the eggs. We always use free-range eggs from a farmhouse in our neighbourhood and their eggs are very large. My 4 egg whites came in at a whopping 150g so I matched this weight with sugar – about 2/3 cup. If your eggs are smaller you will use less sugar. I also used unrefined ‘golden’ sugar (see photo above) that is available at organic stores and some supermarkets through the Ceres Organic brand. I gave it a blitz in our coffee grinder first to make it super fine (plate on the right).
Before we head to the recipe I would like to share some of my pavlova research notes:
- Use week old eggs as they are more acidic creating a perfect egg whipping environment. And separate the eggs in a separate bowl as any egg yolk in the mix means no fluffy whites.
- Thoroughly clean bowls and whisks before starting to remove any oil residue that can ‘flop’ the egg white. A quick wipe out with a kitchen towel dowsed in vinegar is a great practice to adopt before beating egg whites. Use either glass, ceramic or metal as grease clings to plastic and difficult to completely remove.
- Make pavlova on a dry day, moisture in the air can prevent a hard dry crust forming. It may be hard to avoid humidity at this time of year so at least avoid a rainy day.
- Whisk each addition of sugar thoroughly before adding another measure of sugar. And once all the sugar is incorporated continue beating for 10 minutes to completely dissolve the sugar. A small amount of meringue rubbed between fingers should be silky smooth and not at all grainy.
- Lastly, all my research agrees a low oven temperature with no ‘fan bake’ is essential. The temps range from 100 – 150C so I figure 125C is a good average temperature.
You can also read more about baking the perfect pavlova HERE and HERE. If you have any other pavlova tips please share below.
Mini Pavlovas with Vanilla Cashew Coconut Cream
See the tips above for making a successful pavlova.
4 free-range egg whites, at room temperature - weigh the egg whites
Pinch of salt
same weight as egg whites of unrefined golden sugar (or caster sugar), pulsed in a clean coffee grinder to make super fine
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 Tbsp corn flour (starch) or tapioca flour
- Line a baking tray with baking paper. Preheat oven 125C.
- First clean your mixing bowl with a kitchen towel and vinegar to remove grease. Using an electric beater or stand-up mixer whisk egg whites and salt until stiff peaks form. Slowly add the sugar 1 tbsp at a time mixing thoroughly between each addition. The mixture should be nice and glossy now. The next step is very important or the sugar won't be incorporated into the egg white properly and can 'weep' during cooking. Beat the meringue for 10 minutes. Once you can rub a small amount of meringue between your fingers and feel no sugar grains you are good to go.
- Use a large metal spoon to fold through the vinegar, vanilla and corn flour/ tapioca. Dollop the meringue onto the baking paper into 6 x 8cm circles. Don't over work the meringue, just pile it high as it will sink and spread a little as it cooks. Carefully place the pavlovas in the oven in the middle rack and bake for 1 hour then turn off the oven and leave to cool completely inside the oven. I find this is best made the night before if planning a midday Christmas lunch. Or they can be made several days in advance and stored in an airtight container.
Recipe & text copyright Nicola Galloway Homegrown Kitchen
Vanilla Cashew Coconut Cream
1 cup cashews, soaked overnight
1 fresh drinking coconut
OR 400g can coconut cream*
2 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp virgin coconut oil [optional but makes it lovely and creamy]
Pinch of sea salt
Half a vanilla pod, seeds scraped
- *If using a can of coconut cream place the can in the fridge overnight to separate the creamed coconut and coconut water (note: some coconut creams won't separate as they have emulsifiers added. I used Ceres coconut cream and got about 1/2 can of thick creamed coconut.)
- Drain and rinse the cashews, place in a high speed blender or powerful food processor. Open the drinking coconut and pour the coconut water into a jug (or if using canned coconut cream just use the thick creamed coconut). Scoop out the fresh coconut flesh and add it to the blender along with the maple syrup, coconut oil, sea salt and vanilla. Blend for 3-5 minutes until smooth. Scrape down the sides every minute or so adding coconut water to thin if needed but not too much or it will be runny. This is best eaten straight away or within several hours of preparation.
You will need a powerful blender or food processor to get this cream really smooth like in the photos. Alternatively use thick Greek yogurt, equally delicious with pavlova.
Recipe & text copyright Nicola Galloway Homegrown Kitchen
*Happy holidays everyone, I will be taking a few weeks break from this space and see you in 2014!*