Every good cook has a secret ingredient up their sleeves that can transform a recipe. Sometimes the ingredient is a long-term favourite or an accidental discovery. I’ve known for a while that a cheeky spoonful of cornflour to meringue mixture gives the centre that glorious chewiness that most shop bought meringues lack. I’ve also used cornflour in sponge mix to make them fluffier.
Bird’s Custard Powder was invented by Mr Bird for his wife who was allergic to the main ingredient in traditional custard; eggs. Custard powder is essentially vanilla flavoured cornflour with a pinch of salt and tiny bit of colour, so I decided if bog-standard cornflour works in meringue surely custard powder must work too. As well as the chewy meringue centre, the custard powder gives subtle vanilla taste along with a golden colour. Similar hue to when you make meringues with golden caster sugar. Of course if you don’t have custard powder to hand just use cornflour.
What I love about pavlova is that they are the kind of dessert that everyone loves and this was perfect for our housewarming BBQ. It was made even sweeter when one of my pupils gave me a couple of punnets of deliciously sweet local strawberries grown on her parent’s farm. In fact if you have bought some strawberries from a certain supermarket recently it’s likely you will have eaten some from this particular farm.
Meringue, cream and strawberries. A perfect summertime combination.
Custard Powder Pavlova
- 3 egg whites
- 175g caster sugar
- 1 tablespoon custard powder
- 300ml whipping cream
- punnet of strawberries
- In a clean metal bowl whip the egg whites until you have soft peaks.
- While continuing to whip the eggs whites (this is when a free-standing mixer comes in handy) add the sugar one tablespoon at a time waiting 5 seconds before adding the next spoonful. You’ll notice the egg whites begin to take on a glossy appearance.
- Sprinkle the custard power over the meringue and whisk for a further 5 seconds.
- Using a metal spoon (to help make sure the egg whites don’t collapse) transfer the mixture into a piping bag then on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment pipe a base with an approximate diameter of 8 inches.
- Use the remaining meringe mixture to pipe blobs (technical term) around the edge of the base. To get the coloured swirls, dip a clean cocktail stick in some red food dye then swirl in the blobs.
- Bake at 140°c for 1 hour then without opening the door, switch off oven then leave in the oven overnight to finish drying out.
- When ready to serve beat the whipping cream until you have soft peaks. Spoon on top of the meringue then top with fresh strawberries.