After years of championing jelly as the most allergy-friendly dessert I can find, I’m coming round to the opinion that it’s actually naturally gluten and nut-free pavlova. Pregnant? Use pasteurized egg whites from a carton. Allergic to egg? No problem – use aquafaba! Can’t have dairy? There’s lactose free cream or coconut yogurt for you. And if, like my friend, you can’t eat raw fruit, there are plenty of other things you can top your mountain of glorious goo with (or, like me, you can just cook the fruit).
Meringue is a funny old business. There are a hundred different ways to make the stuff – different ratios of sugar to egg, different types of sugar. You can add corn flour or not, perhaps vinegar, maybe some flavourings, a few nuts; and then you have to decide whether you want the fluffy kind, the crisp kind or the chewy. And that’s before we’ve even got onto the Italian or Swiss varieties… anyhow. I did a fair bit of reading on the subject when I decided I wanted to try to use some panela (unrefined Columbian sugar) to make meringue for a gathering with friends; so thought I would jot down my conclusions for future reference. I decided to keep it simple:
- A good rule of thumb is 50g sugar per 1 large egg white; and 1 large egg white per 2 people.
- Unrefined sugar has a pretty strong flavour, and may not dissolve fully into the mix, so mix it with normal caster, using a ratio of around 1:2.
- For meringues that are softer in the middle, rather than crisp, use a slightly higher heat in the oven for less time.
Even though my toppings were super seasonal, the caramel undertones from the panela and roasted fruit give this a very autumnal feel – which matters not a jot when your barbecue is rained on ;)
Panela (unrefined sugar) Pavlova with Roasted Figs & Strawberries
For the meringue:
- 5 large egg whites (I used Two Chicks)
- 80g panela/unrefined sugar, finely grated
- 170g caster sugar
For the topping:
- 500ml cream (I used Lactofree)
- 100g CoYo vanilla coconut yogurt
- 10 small figs, quartered
- 1 punnet strawberries, hulled and quartered
- A little more sugar
- Chocolate shapes (optional)
- Preheat oven to 120 c, line a large baking sheet with baking paper.
- Whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks, then gradually add the sugars, whisking until the mixture is thick and glossy, and the sugar has fully dissolved.
- Empty the meringue mixture onto the baking sheet, and spread into the shape you like (I like to make it match the board I will serve it on).
- Bake for 90 minutes, then switch the oven off and leave to cool (at least 2 hours).
- Sprinkle the figs and strawberries with a little sugar, and roast in the oven (uncovered) for 15-20 minutes then leave to cool.
- Shortly before serving, whip the cream until it it billowy, then fold through the coconut yogurt. Assemble the pavlova and dig in.