I don't know how I have lived all these years without knowing about this dessert. So simple, so delicious, so common in Australia. Maybe it's because I've never traveled down under. There are tons of recipes for this dessert online and it's popular in both New Zealand and Australia. There were two revelations waiting for me in the discovery of the Pavlova.
First of all, a meringue base - yum! This sounds like something I'm really going to like. The only problem is that it is traditionally topped with a generous layer of freshly whipped cream and I didn't want to eat all that dairy. Then came a thorough search of the internet for non-dairy whipped cream alternatives. I didn't want to use cool-whip because it's very sweet, and also pretty fake. Tofu whipped cream just doesn't appeal. Then I found Chocolate Covered Katie, a blog with lots of great and healthy dessert recipes. I was convinced that coconut whipped cream was the way to go. And boy was it! Again, so simple, so fantastic, a revelation. Click through to her blog for complete instructions.
To make this dessert you will need 4 eggs, sugar, one can coconut milk, fresh fruit and some time. First, put the can of coconut milk in the refrigerator so it will be nice and cold when you're ready for it. Next, separate four eggs and leave the whites out to come to room temperature. It's easier to separate them when they're cold, then return the yolks to the fridge if you want to save them.
This will bake very slowly and cool very slowly in the oven so that it will remain glossy and free of cracks. When it's done, it will be crunchy on the outside and marshmallowy soft in the middle. This will be topped with a generous helping of whipped coconut cream and fresh peaches. I served up slices individually so that the leftovers would not get soggy.
Coconut whipped cream will not get as stiff as heavy cream might. It is light and fluffy and rich all at the same time. We just love it.
Peach Pavlova with Coconut Whipped Cream
4 egg whites at room temperature
pinch of salt
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons corn starch
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (I used a half vanilla bean)
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees and place a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet so it will be ready.
Place the egg whites and a pinch of salt in a very clean, large bowl. Beat on high speed until they are firm. Slowly add the sugar a little at a time and keep beating. When the egg whites and sugar become glossy and will form stiff peaks stop beating and grab a spatula. Sift the cornstarch and fold it in. Then stir in the vinegar and vanilla. Spread the mixture in a circle on the parchment paper and smooth it out, or maybe make a rim around the edge if you like. Bake for one and a half hours, then turn the heat off and let it cool completely in the oven. If you're oven bakes hot, or if you notice it browning, turn the heat down. The slow baking and cooling will keep it glossy and free of cracks.
For the coconut cream, take the can out of the refrigerator and open it. It should be very very thick on top. Scoop out the thick part and place it in a bowl. Add a pinch of salt and maybe a tablespoon of sugar and whip it up. Taste and see if you'd like more sugar, keeping in mind that the pavlova is very sweet.
Top each slice with a generous dollop of cream and fresh peaches. Watch your family's faces light up. Have seconds and talk about how wonderfully wonderful this dessert is. Of course any fruit would work, just use whatever is in season and at it's best when you bake.