Christmas has been and gone and we have returned from our holiday up in Far North Queensland at Joel’s parents’ farm. Joel and I got to sleep in every single morning so it was truly a holiday. The kids got to ride on the old farm horse, the quad bike, watch Grandad’s cattle get branded, go fishing and go swimming in the river. Plus they had a whole heap of cousins to play with.
We all did our fair share of eating our way around the tablelands which has become a bit of a foodie destination. The family farm is just near Mungalli Creek Dairy so that was our main port of call. We popped over every second day to enjoy a Devonshire tea or their divine Sicilian Cheesecake. Almost anything would be delicious if dolloped in their thick, rich double cream. We also visited Skybury (coffee plantation), The Coffee Works, Gallo Dairyland, stopped for a sublime coffee at Origin Espresso in Port Douglas and spent a rainy evening at the Reef House in Palm Cove for dinner.
However, the highlight was all the mangoes, bananas and lychees. They were everywhere and were so delicious. They would have been perfect to slice up and layer on top of a big homemade pavlova.
Pavlovas are an ideal summer dessert and I love mixing things up a little and add shredded coconut to the pavlova base or finely chopped chocolate or nuts. Occasionally I have folded a little lemon curd through the whipped cream to put on top and that is a winner. One of my favourites is a chocolate and coconut pavlova topped with cream and raspberries. But if I have a big crowd to feed then I turn to this Julie Goodwin recipe for a big tray baked pavlova.
The texture is spot on – a crisp outer shell and soft and chewy in the middle. I cannot stand those store bought pavlovas that are just marshmallow fluff. The cooled pavlova just needs to be topped with whipped cream sweetened with a tiny bit of caster or icing sugar and loaded up with whatever fruits take your fancy. I think it is best made first up in the morning so there is plenty of time for it to cool and you don’t need to find a large enough container to store it!
I made the pavlova in the photo last month to feed a crowd and I just used the fruit I already had but you can load up the pavlova with more fruit and it will go even further and look more impressive. If you need to take a dessert somewhere then it is quite handy to just leave the pavlova in the tray. It will travel well and then you just slice it and serve it straight from the tray. Perfect dessert for summer BBQs.
pavlova for a crowd
(slight variation to Julie Goodwin’s recipe from ‘The Heart Of The Home’)
6 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups caster sugar
1 tablespoon cornflour
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons caster sugar, extra
fresh seasonal fruit (kiwi fruit, blueberries, passionfruit, mango, bananas, strawberries etc)
Preheat oven to 170 degrees C. Grease and line a large baking tray roughly 38cm x 25cm (I vary the trays I use and it doesn’t matter too much if it is slightly smaller or larger).
Whisk the egg whites and salt in an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Continue to whisk whilst adding a spoonful of caster sugar one at a time. Keep whisking until the sugar is dissolved and it has formed into glossy stiff peaks. To test if sugar has dissolved, rub a little of the mixture between your forefinger and thumb to feel for any gritty sugar.
Sift the cornflour over the top of the egg whites and add the vinegar and vanilla then fold it all together gently. Dollop the mixture carefully into the lined tray and use a palette knife to smooth the pavlova in the tray leaving a 2 cm space around the edge.
Pop in the oven for 30 minutes before reducing the temperature to 140 degrees C and bake for a further 40 minutes. Turn off the oven and prop the door open just an a couple of centimeters. Leave like this until the pavlova is completely cooled.
When ready to serve, whip the cream with the extra caster sugar and dollop on top of the pavlova. Prepare the fruit and arrange on top.