A sumptuous dessert, sure to amaze anyone – dairy free or not. A crisp, light, and yet chewy meringue, filled with billows of coconut milk cream and crowned with a mass of delicious seasonal fruit. The perfect dessert to wow a crowd.
Pavlova brings back a lot of childhood memories for me… warm summer evenings, surrounded by family and friends, everyone full to the brim after a delicious meal. Then, out comes the Pavlova… the crowning centre piece. So light, crisp and sweet, with a pile of pillow-y soft cream, and then a towering mass of sweet fruit. And of course everyone devours it!
Pavlova is something I’ve really missed – It’s something where cream is a very main and important ingredient, and you can’t hide the flavour. Soya cream doesn’t whip very well (or at least no variety I’ve ever found does!), and has a discernible soya aftertaste – not great if you’re serving it up to dairy eaters who will definitely think it is below standard. Over the last few months, I’ve been doing a lot of research into dairy free alternatives and time and time again I saw whipped coconut milk as a replacement for whipped cream. Really, I thought? Does that really work? What’s the texture like? I also worried about everything having to go with coconut… as much as I love it, it doesn’t always go with everything in the same way that cream does!
However I have to say I am a complete convert! Just by refrigerating the coconut milk, it whips perfectly and the texture and appearance is exactly like whipped cream – soft, billowy mounds of it would make a great side to lots of desserts to replace normal cream – and although the coconut flavour is not overwhelming in the slightest, you could soften the flavour by folding in a few tablespoons of dairy free yoghurt, which also loosens the texture slightly.
Pavlova is great dessert to have up your sleeve, especially as the end result is spectacular and it really is very easy. You can even make the meringue part a day or two before which is always useful. Pavlova is a basic meringue recipe with two key ingredients – white wine vinegar and cornflour. It is the addition of these two ingredients which gives Pavlova it’s famous chewy texture in the middle, which just keeps you coming back for more.
Takes 1 hour 15 minutes to make, plus baking and cooling time. Serves 8 generously.
Tip: Use a free standing or electric mixer to make the meringue, unless you have very strong arm muscles…
- 3 egg whites
- 175g caster sugar
- 1tsp cornflour
- 1tsp white wine vinegar
- 1 400ml tin full fat coconut milk (tip: I used Sainsbury’s own brand coconut milk, which I love as it’s a lot thicker than other brands of coconut milk)
- 1/2 to 1 tbsp of icing sugar – depending on how sweet you like your cream
- Optional – up to 2 tbsp of dairy free yoghurt, to lessen to coconut flavour
- Fruit: Any seasonal fruit will be fantastic on this, but to give you a guide I used;
- 400g strawberries
- 250g raspberries
- 2 nectarines
- The night before, refrigerate the tin of coconut milk.
- Make the meringue. Preheat the oven to 130 degrees, and line a large baking tray with grease proof paper.
- Add the egg whites to a large bowl and whisk until stiff. (Tip: put a small bit of vinegar onto a paper towel, and rub all over the bowl and whisk to get rid of any small bits of grease to get maximum air in the egg whites)
- When stiff, begin to add the sugar to the egg whites 1 tbsp at a time, waiting 30 seconds or so before adding the next tbsp until the meringue gets back to its smooth and stiff texture.
- When all the sugar is added, keep whisking the meringue until it stands in very stiff peaks. (Tip: Don’t rush this part of the meringue will be too soft and will crumble when you cut into it)
- Fold the cornflour and vinegar into the meringue.
- Carefully spoon the meringue onto the baking sheet in a circle or oval about 25cm across. Make sure you create a tall rim (so it looks a bit like a nest) as this will be what holds the filling in.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 80 – 90 minutes until pale brown and dry. Turn the oven off, leave the door ajar and leave there until the meringue is cold. Don’t worry if the meringue collapses a tiny bit or cracks as it’s cooling.
- When cold, remove the meringue from the greaseproof paper and store in an airtight container at room temperature until needed for up to two days.
- Make the filling and prepare the fruit. Both of these should be done on the day you wish to serve the meringue – just keep the whipped coconut milk in the fridge until ready to assemble.
- Open the tin of coconut milk – you should see the water and the thick coconut milk have separated. Discard the liquid so you’re left with the creamy, thick coconut milk – spoon this out of the tin into a large bowl.
- Add 1/2 tbsp of icing sugar to the coconut milk, and whip until it resembles the texture of well whipped cream – It should be thick and hold it’s shape. Give it a taste, and decide whether you want to add more sugar, or reduce the coconut flavour by adding yoghurt. Add, and then whip again until combined. Keep in the fridge until needed.
- Prepare your fruit so it is ready to eat, in nice bite size chunks.
- Assemble! Put the meringue on a nice serving plate, spoon the coconut milk into the centre so the nest is filled, then top with the fruit and serve.