The Ridiculously Improbable Vegan Pavlova
Here's a recap and resulting accidental recipe of vegan Pavlova construction on October 24, 2015.
An amazing success! This may be the best pavlova I've ever made. I stopped making them in 2000 when I became vegan, thinking that was that, and then I started to read about this chickpea thing. Wow. I made this pav as a birthday dessert for one of my daughters and the unanimous response was a kind of shocked euphoria. I eyeballed things a little so reproducibility will be interesting. The cream is whipped coconut cream (with added icing sugar). A topping of passionfruit is an essential tradition (I am from rural Australia where pavs appeared with great regularity in my childhood; my mother can put one together in 7 minutes). I still can't quite believe how well this works. The inside texture was perfect. Last note: inverting the meringue is what my mother always does but I'm not sure how common this is; makes sense: put the crust on the outside.
Here's an attempt to reconstruct the recipe, very roughly so, as I may have forgotten some elements because I was making things up. I hope this doesn't lead to pavlova disasters. And in any case, it surely can be refined (although I can't imagine making something that tastes much better!):
Cook at night and probably in a low humidity environment.
Preheat the oven to 230F/110C.
- Aquafaba from one can of chickpeas (low sodium, 15 oz)
- Approx 1/2 cup of granulated sugar
- Approx 1/2 cup of icing sugar
- (caveat 1: not sure if this is the true amount of sugar I used—can't quite remember;
- (caveat 2: had intended to use superfine/caster but this is what we had)
- 1 heaped teaspoon of xanthum gum
- 1–2 teaspoons of vinegar (used red wine because we didn't have any white wine; no noticeable effect on taste)
Whip aquafaba in a solid counter top mixer for a good while and then slowly add sugar and then the gum and vinegar. Get the mixing up to high and leave until stiff peaks are on offer. (I'm sure I walked away for a while to do something else.) The proto-pav was thick and shiny at this stage.
Line a tray with parchment paper and spread the mixture out. (Back when I used to make egg-white-based pavs (which are now a thing to be distinguished), discovering parchment paper led to a tremendous upgrade in pav production.) I like to use a large, long metal spatula for shaping, and the pav ended up being about 11" in diameter. Thickness is up to you; upper limits might be 1.5'', 4 cm. The meringue should be mounded somewhat in the middle as it will later collapse a little under its own weight as well as that of an exuberant amount of topping.
Cook for approx. 1 hr 40 min then turn the oven off and let the pavlova sit overnight. I would imagine the initial cook time could be quite variable depending on the oven, humidity, etc., but 90 minutes at least. The shell seemed to set well early on.
In the morning, do not forget the pavlova in the oven!
Upon remembering, wrap up the meringue and refrigerate until it's time for happiness.
Topping: I'm sure any kind of decent vegan whipped cream could be deployed here. I used the cream from two cans of coconut milk (2x15 oz) stored in the fridge for at least two or three days. Will see what can be produced using cashews [one effort with cashew cream later on proved to be good but not as good].
- 2 cans coconut milk
- 1 cup icing sugar
- vanilla extract/essence to taste
Nothing special: Whip using a mixer and gradually add sugar and vanilla.
Crucial step!: Invert the meringue onto a suitable dish given how the shape of the meringue has turned out. Use the parchment paper (which should still be lightly stuck to the bottom of the meringue) to help with this rather delicate process. You should be able to get under the parchment paper with one hand, and placing one hand on top, gingerly turn your giant meringue upside down onto the waiting platter of triumph.
Peel the parchment paper off as gently as you need to, working from different angles if there's any stickiness. Eggs may be different here as I found the parchment paper came off with no troubles—there was no tragic ripping of meringue.
The top (formerly the bottom) should be soft and ready for cream layering. I found I could use a plate with a large flat middle and gradual upward curves at the edges, but a well made pavlova will fit on a flat plate.
Slather on the cream and then cover with fruit and, to give it the full pav look, some passionfruit (two to three). Excellent fruit options: kiwis, berries of all kinds, bananas (though these won't be durable, lemon juice can help). But you can throw anything on that you want.
Eat the pav.