donut pan idea no. 50: pavlovas

Welcome to the world of pavlovas! Pavlovas are like meringues, but totally not, the difference being that pavlovas have corn starch added in, which gives them super light and crispy outer shells with soft, addictive marshmallow centers. They are very easy to make, and when baked in donut pans can be served as little pavlova cookies or more traditionally prepared miniature pavlovas, with the addition of whipped cream and berries. They are truly divine. I had no problem whipping up this recipe three times over two days last week for a test kitchen run, then the recipe photos, and then for dinner guests because it was so, so easy and let's face it, these things go down fast. They are made of air!

The only tricky thing about baking these donut-shaped pavlovas (or any pavlovas for that matter) is the cooking time. Nearly an hour of baking, followed by more time cooling in the oven to keep them from deflating. The surface will crack, and they are fragile, but sturdy enough to bag up to give to a friend.

If you click on "read more" right down below you can see the full tutorial. This is a good and easy one!

After much research, I adapted this recipe from Joy of Baking. To make between 12-18 donut-shaped pavlovas (depending on your beaten egg white volume and how much of the mixture you pipe into each donut pan cavity), you will need 4 large egg whites, 1 c. superfine sugar, 1/2 tsp. vanilla, 1 tsp. white vinegar and 1/2 tbsp. cornstarch. You will also need a baking spray to grease the pans with. Pam brand spray worked best of the two I tried for this recipe.

I used homemade whipped cream and raspberries for the pavlova toppings, which tasted phenomenal. The whipped cream reacts with the pavlova meringue and keeps it light and easy to cut with your spoon. Really lovely. I also piled some high with ice cream, hot fudge sauce, whipped cream, berries and nuts to make little marshmallow sundaes for our friends Matt and Melissa. 

To get started, preheat your oven to 250ยบ and spray three donut pans with baking spray. Be sure every surface of the donut pan cavities is well-oiled, including the center walls. At the same time, if your baking spray is building up and looking thick, use your fingers or a clean cloth to spread the spray around and wipe it down to a thinner (but still very greasy) layer, if needed. Set the pans aside.

Whisk the eggs whites on medium speed for a minute or two in a stand mixer with a whisk attachment until they form soft peaks with lots of tiny bubbles. With the mixer still running, add the superfine sugar one tablespoon at a time, and keep whisking on medium high for four to five minutes, until very stiff and shiny peaks form. Add the vanilla and mix a moment more until integrated with the meringue.

Sprinkle the corn starch and vinegar over the surface and gently fold them into the meringue mixture.

Now you're ready to pipe the pavlovas! Fill a pastry bag with no tip with the mixture and start piping. I made a batch that was filled about three quarters of the way full, another one that I went around each ring twice with the pastry bag, filling the cavities over the tops of the pans, and I did some just level with the tops of the pans. Any way you fill them they should come out great (as long as you don't open the oven, see below).

When they are filled, set your pans in the oven and bake for about 50 minutes. By that time they will be starting to turn just the slightest bit off-white. Watch them without opening the oven door at all possible. After 50 minutes (or a little earlier if you are concerned about the color), turn off the heat and let them cool completely in the oven without opening the door. If you happen to have an oven door that will stay open just the tiniest bit (I don't), you can let the heat escape slowly through that crack. But cold air deflates the pavlovas if it hits them before they've set up, so be careful. They still taste great when they are deflated, but they look even better when they are nice and puffy looking.

They should slip out of the pans with just a tiny bit of coaxing when they are completely cooled. 

And they will be all marshmallowy inside. Go ahead and just eat them!

Or, spread them with some unsweetened whipped cream, top with berries and dig in. This, again, is a traditional pavlova preparation.

But, you can also make marshmallow ice cream sundaes on top of them! Tip: Layer the whipped cream on top of the pavlova first, before the ice cream. It will help keep the pavlova from becoming too chewy. Lesson learned.

They also keep for a few days in a tightly sealed container or bag, so you can pack them up for an impressive hostess gift!

That's donut pan idea number 50, can you believe it?


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