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May 2, 2007 12:00 PM

Attempting a giant pavlova...any tips?

I've made pavlova a couple of times (using Nigella's recipe, so yummy) and love the combination of meringue, cream and fruit. I'm throwing a baby shower for a friend and thought that a giant pavlova might be the perfect festive, springy dessert.

Most recipes I see serve 6-10 people. I'm hoping to make one to serve about 20, even more. Do you think I could just double/triple the recipe? Or do you think making a meringue that size will utterly fail?

I'm also thinking of making it espresso flavored, with balsamic marinated strawberries but I'm not sure how much instant espresso to add (or should I use brewed espresso?). Any guesses?

Any advice from you expert pavlova makers would be most appreciated. I'm happy to experiment on my own, but thought the answers might already be out there...thanks in advance!

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  1. My usual recipe serves (in theory) 6 to 8 - it's made with 3 egg whites. I've doubled it to make a big one that served about 12. (We're pavlova-hogs.) You could triple a recipe like that and divide it into two portions - to make two large pavlovas that would each serve, say 9 or 10. My double recipe is baked in an oval shape on a full sheet pan lined with parchment paper.

    I've flavoured the meringue with cocoa before, but never espresso. I would use very finely ground espresso powder, not brewed espresso. You really don't want to mess with the water content of the meringue.

    I can post my recipe if you want.

    8 Replies
    1. re: Nyleve

      I'd be wary of adding espresso to the meringue (I'd worry that powdered wouldn't mix too well and brewed would mess with the water content like Nyleve said.
      Ground hazelnuts folded into meringue are good, and you could always make the cream espresso flavoured instead.
      I can't really see coffee + strawberry as a flavour combination myself but that could be just me!
      Also, I'd guess for 20 people you'd need to make 2 rather than one large one.

      1. re: pootle

        I agree with the cautionary note about expresso (even in powdered form) added to the meringue part,Meringue can be unforgiving. But I love the idea! As it is a special occasion and the calories don't count, how about making a whipped cream topping that utiizes the expresso ingredient?

        1. re: pootle

          A small amount of coffee extract may work. Add it when your meringue is almost to where it needs to be. Check for it in the baking aisle. But the thought of coffee with balsamic and strawberries short circuits in my brain on the way to my taste buds.

        2. re: Nyleve

          I've actually flavored meringue with coffee by dissolving instant espresso powder in just enough Kahlua to make a paste. It works just fine - egg whites are mostly water anyway, so a smidge more liquid won't change much.

          1. re: curiousbaker

            Odd, really, because if even a drop of water gets into egg whites, they won't whip up to anything.

            1. re: Diana

              Really? I've never experienced that. Fat, of course, but not water. Obviously, large amounts of water would be problematic, but I've never heard that a drop would prevent whipping. Then again, I don't know why I would have ended up with water in meringue, so I might not have ever had that happen. Does anyone know anything about the science behind this?

              Of course, people add vanilla extract to meringue all the time. A thick paste made from a teaspoon or two of Kahlua and some instant coffee would be similar in liquid content.

              1. re: curiousbaker

                I think the trick is to add extracts and flavoring AFTER you get stiff peaks. Maybe even after the sugar is in.

                If water gets into the whites before whipping or in the begniining, you get a mess.

                1. re: Diana

                  Ah - yes that may be it - I've always add liquidy stuff at the end. I was thinking maybe this distinction was water vs. alcohol, but this sounds right.

        3. Espresso and balsamic strawberry sounds great, I think that instant espresso would work... certainly test it first. I just made a dessert with lemon cake, strawberries in fig balsamic and whipped cream sweetened with lavender honey... these flavours would all transfer well to a pavlova. By the way, I have never gotten the texture quite the same as when I had them in New Zealand and Australia what's the trick to crunchy with a little bit of chewy?

          1 Reply
          1. re: harryharry

            The trick to crunch with a little bit of chewy is to cook slowly on low-ish heat (around 150 centigrade or a bit less, sorry don't know offhand in farenheit..), then when done turn the oven off and leave in the oven to cool.
            If it needs to cool faster as you're in a hurry, wedge a wooden spoon in the door to hold it open a bit but still leave in the oven.

          2. Can you shape the two pieces to kind of fit together when you add the cream and berries? That way, it can be presented as one large pavlova... I'm thinking two roughly rectangular shapes side by side.

            3 Replies
            1. re: pamalamb

              I would much much much prefer to make two large (1-1/2 recipes each) pavlovas, serving one first and holding one to put out when the first one is gone (or nearly gone). This is such a delicate creation that it would be a shame to mess with the integrity. It's just as impressive and everyone will be thrilled (and relieved) when you put out the second one!

              1. re: Nyleve

                You know, Nyleve, I was really resistant to the idea of making 2 until you mentioned holding one to put out when the first was finished! I really didn't want to put out 2, but wasn't sure that making one huge one would work. I think I'll take that suggestion.

                Am doing a trial run for mother's day...will let you know how the espresso portion turns out! I like the paste idea, think I'll go that route.

                BTW pootle--the coffee/strawberry/balsamic combo is really *really* good. Try it yourself on some coffee ice cream--it's unexpected and really fantastic. JMHO, though.

                1. re: Budino

                  The trick in "holding" one pavlova back is to put it out just before the first one is completely gone. What happens is that no one wants to take the very last piece, so you'll end up with everyone politely refusing to finish the first one unless you jump the gun and magically make a new one appear. Enjoy!

            2. Hi, I don't know about Pavlova, but I've been adding espresso powder to my sugar (like making cinnamon sugar) before I add sugar to my meringue (after I have peaks) and it's worked great! Wonderful flavor!!