You know Christmas is in the air when you rummage the cupboard for ground cloves to be used in conjunction with brown sugar. Those two best friends create that unique scent that bring the frivolities of the holiday season ever so close. Think Christmas fruit cakes, mulled wine and puddings all sorts. Or, in this case, little festive meringues. Then, why not turning them into one of Australia’s most loved Christmas dessert, Pavlova? Topped with generous dollops of sweetened cream and scarlet berries, you have secured yourself a mono-portion of jolly Christmas spirit!
6 egg whites
pinch of salt
2 cups of brown sugar (can use white sugar for a snow-white meringue)
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract or paste
1 tablespoon of ground clove plus some for dusting
1-1/2 teaspoon of corn flour
1/2 tablespoon of white balsamic vinegar, or regular white wine vinegar
Whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until slightly frothy. Add the sugar, a little at a time and keep whisking until soft peaks form and the meringue is shiny and elastic. This will take about 3-4 using electric beaters…a lot more , and a sore arm, if doing by hand!
Add vanilla, cloves, corn flour and vinegar and mix gently to incorporate them into the meringue.
To make the nests, spoon 1 tablespoon of meringue mixture onto a baking tray lined with baking paper, create a rim so that the centre can accommodate berries and cream after baking. Allow room for rising in the oven.
To make the wreaths, dollop teaspoons of mixture to create a disk that is hollow in the middle. Again, create a dent in the middle to accommodate the topping you prefer or keep smooth if no topping is required.
Bake in a low oven (150 C, 300 F) for 35-40 minutes or until the base is set, the top is lightly cracked and bronzed but the middle is still soft.
Allow to cool at room temperature.
Top with whipped cream or mascarpone, berries, ruby red cherries or whatever your imagination suggests.
The cooked meringues will keep well if stored in an air-tight container lined with baking paper, at room temperature for 1-2 days in hot climate and up to three days in colder temperatures.