Sunday, March 9, 2008

better than a face mask

What do you do with the six leftover egg whites when you're done making seven-yolk pasta?

Egg white omelettes are the obvious, if unsatisfying answer. White cake is better, but the thought of all those dirty bowls and measuring cups is probably exhausting if you've been scrubbing dried yolk from the countertop. If you're like my mother, you could use them to make a face mask... but if you're like my mother, you probably weren't making seven-yolk pasta to begin with.

There's a better solution: bake a pavlova.

Pavlova is a dessert of much-disputed origin: both Australia and New Zealand lay claim to it, though it's more frequently associated with Australia. It is named for the ballerina Anna Pavlova, and not the scientist Ivan Pavlov, though there are some who say the dessert is droolworthy enough that the latter would be more appropriate. Why Pavlova? Well, it supposedly has something to do with the resemblance between swirls of meringue and a floaty dancer's skirt.

Pavlova bears a certain resemblance to meringue, insofar as it consists of egg whites and sugar, baked in the oven. However, meringues are baked at a very low temperature for a very long time, which gives them their crisp, dry texture. A pavlova starts off in a hot oven. After a few minutes, the heat is turned down, and the pavlova bakes until it it has a crisp, browned outer shell, and a soft, marshmallowy interior. The pavlova is left to cool, and then topped with whipped cream and fruit (traditionally strawberries, kiwifruit, and passionfruit.)

Pavlova. It tastes better than egg white omelette, is more interesting than white cake, and... you weren't seriously thinking of making a face mask, were you?

(Adapted from the "Pavlova Pyatt" at

As far as toppings are concerned, I prefer Greek yogurt to whipped cream (it has a tangy flavor that balances out the sweetness of the base), and I vary the fruit depending on the season. Nothing caught my eye at the supermarket this time, so I used the strawberries that were lurking in the freezer, macerated with a little icing sugar and a splash of blackcurrant liqueur. Feel free to use whatever fruit you fancy.

(Recipe not for one. It doesn't keep.)

Preheat oven to 350F.

Beat together six large egg whites, one-and-a-half cups sugar, half a teaspoon vanilla extract, one-and-a-half teaspoons cornstarch, and one teaspoon balsamic vinegar in a large bowl until light and foamy. With the mixer on at high speed, pour in one-quarter cup of boiling water and beat until the mixture is glossy and forms stiff peaks.

Next, determine your optimal ratio of crunchy shell to marshmallowy interior. Putting the mixture in a cake tin, as in the picture above, will result in a lot of marshmallowy interior, and not so much crunchy shell. But should you prefer lots of crunch and not so much marshmallow, you'll want to get a baking tray, line it in foil, and spread the pavlova in the biggest circle the tray will allow.

Whichever ratio you choose, you'll want to bake the pavlova for ten minutes at 350F. After ten minutes, drop the temperature to 200F, and bake for another forty minutes. If you turn the oven off and leave the pavlova for another hour, it's supposed to prevent cracking, but I don't usually bother, because you won't see the cracks after it's been dressed.

Let the pavlova cool, then top with whipped cream or Greek yogurt (something like Fage), and whatever fruit(s) you choose. Serve.


alex said...

om nom nom nom

Julie said...

Way better than a face mask, and I'd vote for pavlova over egg white omelette any day!

Cakelaw said...

I love pav - good choice for those egg whites. I could easily make this a recipe for one ;)

adele said...

Heavens. Sounds like you could give Nathaniel a run for his money. :)