I am often faced with a number of kitchen quandaries. Most frequently I find myself in 'the serving piece predicament'. My cupboards are dangerously packed to the hilt with bowls and platters in virtually every shape, size and colour. Yet I never have quite the right one when I need it. Anyone else baffled by the same situation?
I have wasted an inordinate amount of time contemplating which platter/bowl/plate would be best to serve a dish. The result leaves me either in a state of panic trying to throw together the rest of the meal, or irritated that I should have have spent my time on any of the 57 other more important items on my list. So, to alleviate the problem, I now cook as many dishes as possible in the pieces that I intend to serve them. Hence no mental space wasted.
Case in point: sheet pan pavlova. I should probably mention that I have an unadulterated love of pavlova. My godmother makes the best 'pav' I know. Her meringue is high, soft and pillowy. It melts in your mouth, has a slightly crisp edge and is adorned with a healthy amount of cream and fruit.
In the early 70's she lived next door to an Australian who taught Domestic Science (yes, that really did exist) and gave my godmother this pavlova recipe, along with some nuggets of cooking genius. As I am an extremely devoted goddaughter, she has kindly passed them on. Along with the recipe.
Pavlova is the ultimate party piece. But to make it for a crowd, you need a large circular serving implement, and sometimes mine is not available. Plus, I have no more cupboard space. Cue trusty sheet pan - my kitchen saviour. It now has a beautiful patina thanks to overuse, but when covered with baking parchment, becomes dinner party chic.
The best part about this recipe is that it is very easy to scale up and down depending on the size of your gathering. The formula is simple: for every egg white, you use 2 tbsp caster sugar. So you can make it for as many people or as few as you like. The only variation I have made from the original recipe is that I cut the amount of double cream in half and use Greek yogurt instead. I love the tang against the sweetness of the fruit and the meringue base, and makes it lighter (not to be confused with less calorific).
As the figs and blackberries are glorious this year, I used them to adorn my pavlova last week as the main dessert for lunch on Rosh Hashanah. To keep it festive, I sprinkled some honey cake crumbs that I toasted in the oven for some extra texture and crunch. But some may consider this gesture a little excessive. Please use any berries of choice when they are in season on your pavlova, and passion fruit in the gloomy winter months always works a treat.
Sheet Pan Pavlova with Figs and Berries
Note: You can also make this with coconut whipped cream for a dairy free option.
This recipe serves 10-12 generously. To serve a smaller crowd, scale the recipe down with the formula above of 1 egg white = 2 tbsp caster sugar.
It is very important when making meringue that the egg whites are at room temperature and you whip them in a very clean bowl.
8 egg whites
pinch of salt
260g (16tbsp) caster sugar
2 tsp white vinegar (either malt or white wine vinegar)
2 tsp cornflour (cornstarch)
2 tsp vanilla extract
Cream and Topping:
250ml (1 cup) whipping cream
2 tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
250g (1 cup) Greek yogurt
6-7 figs, cut into quarters (or sixth depending on their size)
approximately 1 small punnet of blackberries, blueberries and raspberries
Preheat oven to 140C (275F).
Line a 37x25x2.5cm (14.5x10x1inch) sheet pan with parchment paper (leaving it overhanging the edges to allow for the meringue to grow in the oven).
Beat the egg whites with a small pinch of salt until they form soft peaks.
Slowly add the sugar a few tablespoons at a time until fully incorporated and you have a shiny meringue.
Add the vinegar, cornflour and vanilla and beat until combined.
Spread the meringue onto the prepared baking sheet and smooth the top with a spatula.
Bake for 35-40 minutes until lightly browned with a slightly crispy top. It should be soft but not wobble when touched.
Allow to cool. (This can be made a few hours in advance, but assemble as close as you can to eating. I have been known to make the meringue the night before and leave it covered until I need it).
Whip the cream with the sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form. Add the Greek yogurt and whip together until just combined. If you have overwhipped your cream (ahem, I often do) then just stir the yogurt through and it will loosen the mixture.
Lightly smear the cream across the cooled meringue and scatter with figs and berries or your topping of choice.