I had a group of school-friends’ over for lunch yesterday — the first group event I’ve had in the new house. We reconnected at a school reunion some years ago and ever since, nine of us have been meeting for lunch and a catch-up a few times a year. It’s generally at someone’s place, but sometimes we have a picnic or go on an outing — for instance earlier this year we met at a sculpture park, and ate lunch from the cafe.
It’s usually a “bring a plate” event (a bit like the American “pot luck” I suspect), which makes it easier. (Speaking of “bringing a plate,” years ago, an American friend of mine, when she was first invited to an Aussie party and asked to “bring a plate” did just that. Assuming the hostess didn’t have enough plates for everyone to eat off, she bought two empty plates, one for her and one for her husband. We think we speak the same language but it’s not quite true, is it?)
So because this gathering was at my new house, and it was close to Christmas, I decided to celebrate by making a pavlova (or pav), which is a favourite Australian dessert. It has a meringue base and is topped with lashings of whipped cream and fresh fruit. The shop-bought pav’s are generally crisp meringue all through but the best home-made ones have a crisp meringue shell that is marshmallowy inside. (The secret is adding a little vinegar to the whipped egg-whites.)
I was a bit apprehensive about using my new fancy electric oven (which is quite technological compared with my old gas oven) especially as the recipes on-line varied in cooking temperature for fan-forced from 80C to 130C but they all agreed on 90 minutes cooking time! So I went for 105C and crossed my fingers. I baked it the night before, turned the oven off after 90 minutes and didn’t open the oven until the following morning, (which is supposed to prevent it cracking) and to my relief, it came out perfect and uncracked. That’s it below.
But the moment I put the whipped cream on it, it cracked — so then I fretted that it might not be properly cooked inside. So I slathered over the cracks with whipped cream, and piled on the fruit — in this case mixed berries — and hoped for the best. And when we cut it, it was perfect — a crispy meringue shell, marshmallowy inside, and not too sweet. Everyone loved it and some came back for seconds and there’s none left. I was so pleased.
Have you ever baked a pav? Or eaten one? I know a lot of North Americans never have, and I don’t know about people in the UK or Ireland, but they’re very common here and in NZ. It’s very much a summer dessert. So what do you like to bring when you’re invited to “bring a plate” or a potluck?