25 January 2013

Brown Sugar & Spice Pavlova with Brûléed Nectarines

Modern Australia is made up of so many cultures and traditions, from the original inhabitants of the land  through to the newest of migrants. For me, Australia Day is about celebrating this diverse multicultural range and what better way than through food. I am a first generation Australian and thinking about my own heritage I have come up with my Australia Day Pavlova to represent me - Brown Sugar & Spice Pavlova... with brûléed nectarines just because they are amazing.
Using brown sugar is a nod to my American mum who taught me the wonders of candy making (and love of cooking in general), this pavlova tastes like a wonderful light version of American brown sugar fudge "penuche". From my Dutch father I have incorporated those aromatic Trade Route Spices which I (and the Dutch) can't get enough of - cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger and cardamom. The Pavlova bakes to a sun kissed creamy brown with flecks of spice throughout and the combination of flavour and texture is heavenly.  

Nectarines are so ripe and actually full of flavour at the moment (not mealy and bland) that I had to do something with them before the season is over. I hadn't brûléed them before but figured if worst came to worst they would resemble poached fruit. They are divine with a thin layer of translucent crunchy caramel and then oozing what can only be described as 'nectarine honey'. I brûléed all afternoon. After a little experimenting the best method I found was to use a quarter of a nectarine, cut into thin slices but keep them attached at one end so you can fan them out. Set on a safe surface, my baking paper worked well but be careful where you direct the flame or it will catch alight; (my wooden chopping board gave a not so subtle hint of onion).

Pat the top really well with paper towel to absorb the moisture from the nectarine, more moisture will come out but if you don't get rid of the first lot then the sugar melts and is too wet to brûlée. Once dry(ish) cover well with caster sugar (don't use brown sugar is it is caramelised already and will burn immediately; regular sugar takes too long to cook so it tends to be uneven and a little crystallised). Turn on your brûlée torch and cook using a circular motion until the sugar is caramelised. Slide a knife under your nectarine fan and move to another piece of baking paper, cover with sugar again and brûlée (if it stays in one place it tends to stick). My best results were with this double brûlée technique as the very top of the nectarine gets warm and oozy and melts the first brûlée into caramel nectarine honey leaving the second crunchy brûlée on top. Make just before serving so you maintain crunch. These would also be divine served on natural yoghurt or pannacotta. I did try to make these under the grill/ broiler but the sugar didn't caramelise before the nectarine 'melted', still yummy but not brûlée.

Ingredients (makes 8 individual serves):
  • 4 egg whites, at room temperature
  • pinch salt
  • 75 grams brown sugar
  • 150 grams caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon cornflour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 400 mls pure cream, for whipping
  • 2 - 3 ripe but firm nectarines, freestone if possible (they are much easier to cut neatly)
  • 50 grams caster sugar (for the brûlée)**
**If you are decorating with the bruleed nectarines you will also need a brûlée torch.

  1. Preheat oven to 160˚C
  2. Trace around a small teacup/ bowl/ bottle approximately 7 cm in diameter 8 times on a sheet of baking paper (or 2 sheets if necessary - I fit 6 on one sheet and 2 on the other) making sure to leave space between each as the Pavlova's will spread. Place ink side down on a baking tray.
  3. Combine brown and caster sugars in a bowl until completely mixed with no lumps (put through a sieve if necessary).
  4. In a separate large clean glass bowl beat egg whites at high speed with pinch of salt until it begins to whip into a pale foam which can just hold its shape (do not over beat at this stage). Make sure your bowl and beaters are super clean as any oil on them will inhibit the whites from beating. 
  5. Gradually add the combined sugars while beating at high speed, sprinkling a heaped dessert spoon at a time, allowing each to be incorporated before adding the next. This may seem an annoyingly lengthy process but it makes for a smoother, silkier shell.
  6. When all the sugar is combined the meringue should be stiff and glossy and hold its shape very well. If you are close but there is still a little give in the meringue, keep beating on high in short bursts until you get there, you do not want to over beat.
  7. Combine the cornflour and spices and sift over the meringue, add the vinegar and vanilla extract and give the meringue one last burst to combine (no more than 5 - 10 seconds).
  8. Once you have the ideal consistency blob the meringue a heaped dessert spoon at a time into the centre of the circles drawn on your baking paper, then using a spatula gently tease them into rough circles.
  9. Place your tray/s in the heated oven on a middle or lower shelf and immediately turn the heat down to 150˚C, cook for 45 minutes then turn the oven down to 120˚C and cook for a further 30 - 45 minutes depending on your oven. Once it is cooked, turn the oven off leaving the Pavlova in the oven until the oven and Pavlova are completely cool - at least 3 hours or overnight. If you have a well-sealed oven (you lucky duck) use a clothes peg or wooden spoon to prop the door slightly ajar while the Pavlova cools. If your oven leaks heat like mine, leave the door completely closed.
  10. You can store the completely cooled bases in a sealed container for up to 3 days before serving.
  11. When you are ready to serve, whip the cream to cover the Pavlova.
  12. Cut nectarines into quarters, removing the seed, then slice each quarter into 3 or 4 thin slices with the top still holding and fan them out (see picture above). Completely cover with caster sugar then using your brûlée torch work in a circular motion until the sugar melts and turns golden bronze. Cover with caster again and brûlée a second time, this ensures that you still have crisp toffee brûlée by the time you assemble and serve as the first brûlée will start to melt with the warm nectarine juice into delicious nectarine honey. 
  13. Don't add sugar to the cream as the Pavlova is sweet and so is the brûlée.
  14. Only add the cream and brûlée the nectarines shortly before serving so your Pavlova doesn't lose its crunch and the nectarines maintain their crunchy coating!


  1. Wow, there are some fantastic photos here. I love your use of the scandinavian spices too. They are a great way to bring new life to this Aussie stalwart.

    1. Thanks Sarah. I can't get enough of these spices and they worked especially well in the Pav. Ingrid x

  2. Yum! My mouth is watering just looking at your fab photos! I can imagine the taste.

    1. Thank you so much Sue, it is definitely my favourite Pavlova recipe so far and the nectarines are amazing on everything. Ingrid x