What is the best way to making a great pavlova base?
The secrets: (some are old wives tales, but hey, it's an old recipe)
Eggs: Room temperature (you don't put eggs in the fridge do you?) and not fresh
Contamination: Make sure everything you use to prepare the base is perfectly clean, especially no grease. Use boiling water to rinse everything first. Metal or glass bowls are best, as plastic is harder to get 100% clean. Also make sure no yolk gets into the egg whites
Beating: When eggs whites have gone firm, add the sugar a little at a time using a powerful beater machine going flat out. NZ'ers use their trusty but ancient Kenwood Chef with the glass bowl for ten minutes until the it looks like the Swiss Alps on a sunny day. You should not be able to feel the castor sugar when you squish some mix between your fingers. If they go dull you have over beaten. They will still work but will go extra soggy when cooked as the sugar runs out
Size: Height = radius, or a little less. A radius of less than 10cm means you won't get Pav, just meringue. You can experiment with baking paper rings to hold the mix into a perfect cake shape if fussy. I wouldn't bother though
If truly stuck, go on a course http://www.creativetourism.co.nz/workshops_taste_pav.html
This is what they should look like
In my experience, the keys to good meringue are : Old Eggs and a clear day.
The fresher the egg, the thicker the white. An egg fresh out of the chicken will have a heavy gelatinous white that sticks to the yolk, and only a little bit of watery white.
As the egg gets older, the whites convert to the more watery form. This is what you want for meringue.
Secondly, I have much more success on clear days than I do on rainy days. I think it has something to do with the air pressure and humidity.
In terms of physically MAKING the base, shape the mixture into a ring on the tray, so that the outside of the pavlova is slightly higher than the inside. This helps the cream and fruit not fall off when you're cutting it.
The mixture needs to be really stiff so that it doesn't expand outwards into a big flat pav. I find that using a ratio of 1:2 icing sugar:caster sugar also helps form a stiffer and glossier mixture.
I discovered how to make pavlovas a couple of years ago and have always found them really easy. My recipe uses egg whites, golden caster sugar, cornflour and white wine vinegar.
I have heard that it can be tricky to get this right so I always follow the exact same stages:
I have included the whole recipe because I'm not certain which of the stages is key. I would guess that properly whipping it (stages 3 & 4) and the cooking method (starting it off hotter, then turning down, and leaving it in the oven until completely cold) is probably part of it too. I also read when I first saw the recipe (can't remember where, sorry) that the white wine vinegar and cornflour are key to helping it set well too.
A pavlova base is a meringue with cornstarch added. The addition of cornstarch makes a soft, marshmallow-y center. The Joy of Baking has what looks like a comprehensive recipe, although I haven't made it.
I've always just made it with a normal meringue base and only just learned this was "wrong" (silly English heritage I guess) . If you want to use a meringue base, there are two main considerations:
Other than that, all you need to do is make a meringue. I generally use the recipe from Delia Smith (she likes them chewy too). Essentially you just whip egg whites, disolve in some fine sugar, and bake it. It's super easy (if you have a mixer) and it's always a huge hit.
To anyone that isn't familiar with Pavlova (Australia's Favorite Treat), I strongly recommend you try one: Meringue topped with whipped cream topped with loads of fresh fruit.