Pavlova - the leftover egg white monster
When it comes to leftover yolks and whites, the whites will certainly outnumber the yolks in most households. I have to admit, I have discarded quite a few over the years. There was always the intention to add them to scrambled eggs or a fried egg over the next couple of days. However too often I kept procrastinating and eventually I lost track of how old they were and wondered if they are still safe to eat. So I discarded them.
In one of her series Nigella Lawson gave a useful tip how to save leftover egg whites: they can be frozen and defrosted when you need them. Which is what I have been doing ever since. I store them in a container in the freezer and just make a note that I have added one on the label. That way I know how many egg whites I already have in there. Sometimes it can get a bit overwhelming with the amount of egg whites I have…what on earth should I do with them? Meringue to feed a football team? I like meringue, but not that much that I could eat them all the time. And I find that many people are not that keen on them. They look pretty, but most find them too sweet or don’t like the texture. So giving them away isn’t so much of an option. My mother loves meringue and likes pavlova even more. Meringue with cream and berries on top? It’s one way to make her really happy. She came to visit me for a long weekend and I thought that is a perfect opportunity to use up some of my leftover egg whites. Pavlova originated in New Zealand, however the Australians claim that they invented it. It is popular in both countries and can be regarded as a national dish. Whoever invented it one thing is certain that it was named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, who had several appearances in the late 1920s.
Back to my mum’s visit. One afternoon we planned to go to a beer garden with my boyfriend and his parents. I wasn’t sure whether my mum and I will finish the whole pavlova by ourselves, so we took it along as a surprise. The recipe I followed was by an Ottolenghi employee called Jens Ferdinand with the monicker “The Baking German”. I follow him on Facebook and Instagram and remembered his video on how to make pavlova. It is so easy and fuss-free, even if you are not feeling confident about baking, this is easy to follow. I have tweaked it a little bit, because I had less egg whites than the amount asked for in the recipe. I also lowered the amount of sugar. I replaced raw cane sugar for the regular caster sugar. Obviously this will turn your meringue a little beige, but I just prefer the flavour to regular white sugar. I have also reduced the amount of mascarpone and cream for the topping.
The pavlova created a bit of a stir at the beer garden. In a Bavarian beer garden you are allowed to bring your own food, but have to buy the drinks. Mostly people take pretzels, obazda (a spread similar to Liptauer cheese) and radishes. So all things savoury, however I have never encountered anyone bringing a cake. There were looks from the neighbouring tables and one couple from the adjacent table eventually voiced their disappointment when we finished the pavlova without offering them a piece. My boyfriend smilingly handed over his plate for a second portion after he finished the first, which is the greates compliment of all because he usually doesn’t like cake and often holds back when it comes to sweets. The couple from the neighbouring table said that we will probably meet again in that beer garden over the summer and told me to make sure I come prepared with another pavlova for them to try. I guess I don’t have to worry anymore about not being able to use up leftover egg whites.
175 g egg whites (about 6 egg whites)
250 g raw cane sugar (or regular caster sugar)
100 g white chocolate, chopped
250 g mascarpone
200 ml single cream
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
375 g mixed berries (raspberries, blackberries, blueberries...)
400 g apricots, pitted and cut into halfmoon shapes
chopped pistachios to garnish (optional)
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment and spread out the sugar. If you have a fan-assisted oven, put another piece of baking parchment on top and weigh down the left and right edges with some metal kitchen knifes, so the sugar does not get blown around. Set the timer for 7 minutes. Add the egg whites to the bowl of a stand mixer (or put in a regular bowl if using a hand-held whisk) and start mixing a medium-high speed about two minutes before the timer for the sugar ends.
Remove the sugar from the oven and add to the beaten egg whites while continuing to whisk. Continue to beat until the whites are firm and glossy. They should build soft peaks when you remove the whisk from the beaten egg whites. Don't overbeat, otherwise the whites get dry.
Lower the heat of the oven to 90 degrees fan (110 degrees Celsius regular).
Dab a bit of beaten egg white in every corner of a baking sheet and put a piece of baking parchment on top. This helps to keep the baking parchment in place. Spread out the beaten egg whites on the baking sheet to a disk approximately 4-5 cm high and 25 cm circumference. Form a little well in the middle to accomodate the cream and fruit topping.
Dry the meringue in the oven for 3.5 hours. Remove the meringue and set aside to cool.
Put the chocolate in a bowl and place on top of a pan filled with water. Make sure the bowl does not touch the water. Let the chocolate melt over medium heat. Once the chocolate has melted, distribute over the cavity in the meringue disk with a spoon or brush. This will prevent the cream mix you are spreading on top later to seep through and the meringue won't get soggy. Let the chocolate-covered meringue firm up for 10 minutes in the fridge. While the meringue is in the fridge, put the mascarpone and cream with the vanilla essence in a bowl of a stand mixer and whisk until thick and firm. Spread the cream mixture over the meringue disk. Dot with the fruit. If you like to jazz it up some more, add some chopped green pistachios for garnish.