Editor's Note: This is an incredibly special dessert to be saved for some very meaningful occasions. Much love and time go into the preparation, but a masterpiece of beauty awaits at the end of this process. For this incredible dessert, it is suggested that you use peeled white peaches or nectarines for their significant look that adds to the dessert. Yellow peaches, however, can be used for a Golden Wedding party. With these you can get a desired look of bulging meringue that drips with gold in cases where you remove the blue-black seeds. Shaved coconut can also be a nice touch for special occasions.
I feel about a pavlova much as I do about a trifle: no book of mine would be complete without one. This is fancier than I normally go in for, as the occasion dictates. It does make a difference if you peel the peaches or nectarines, and as long as you dunk them briefly in boiling water, the skins come off relatively easily. I’ve specified white peaches – or nectarines – because I love their pale-fleshed beauty, and because they just seemed right here, though regular yellow-fleshed are not to be scorned. And should you be wanting to make something for a Golden Wedding party, you should certainly go straight for the yellow peaches. The slight sourness of the passionfruit brings out the sweetness of the peach. I’ve pushed the pulp through a sieve here, but I don’t always. You get more of a look of a bulging white meringue dripping with gold when the blue-black seeds are removed, but actually I love the crunch they add, so choose what you want to go for. Finally, because I found some shaved coconut, gorgeous ivory-edged white curls, I decided to flavor the meringue base correspondingly, but if you wish, use vanilla instead and scatter the top with white rose petals, or even pale pink ones.
Total Timeunder 4 hours
OccasionFormal Dinner Party
Taste and TextureCreamy, Crunchy, Fruity, Light, Sweet, Tangy, Tart
Type of DishDessert
- 8 egg whites
- Pinch salt
- 2½ cups superfine sugar
- 4 teaspoons cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon coconut extract
- 6 passionfruit
- 3 white peaches or nectarines
- Juice of ½ lime
- 2½ cups heavy or whipping cream
- 1 cup shaved dried coconut
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and draw a rough 10 inch circle, using a springform of that size as a guide if you have one.
Whisk the egg whites and salt until satiny peaks form. Then beat in the sugar, tablespoonfuls at a time, until the meringue is stiff and shiny. Sprinkle over the cornstarch, vinegar and coconut extract, and fold in lightly. Mound on to the baking sheet within the circle, flatten the top and smooth the sides. Put in the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 300°F and cook for 1¼-1½ hours. It will have risen and cracked on the top and a little around the sides. If it is not dry and crispy on the outside give it a little longer. Then turn off the oven, open the door and leave to cool completely.
When you are ready to assemble the pavlova, blanch the peaches or nectarines in boiling water and slip off their skins. Cut the fruit in half and take out the pits, lay them in a shallow dish and squeeze over the lime juice to keep their color or “bleach” them. Invert the pavlova on to a plate and peel off the parchment paper – at least, that’s what I normally do, though I see from the picture I didn’t bother this time. But if the meringue base hasn’t crumbled too much, it is the best thing to do, as it means you swathe the marshmallowy top (ie the inverted bottom) with the cream, and the two seem to meld together. If all is too crumbly, don’t bother.
Whip the cream until thickened but still soft, and pile on top of the meringue, spreading it to the edges in a rough, swirly fashion. Cut the passionfruit in half, and scoop everything out into a sieve placed over a glass measuring cup and press through, so only the seeds remain in the sieve. Pour most of the juice over the swirly cream. Or just halve the passionfruits and scoop pulp, seeds and all, over the cream. Slice the blanched halved fruit into thin segments and arrange them on top of the cream and passionfruit juice. Then do a final pouring over of the remaining juice. Or, if you haven’t sieved the fruits, just give a little squeezing over of the empty shells.
Sprinkle the shaved coconut over the top of the pavlova, like wedding confetti.
2004 Nigella Lawson