Spiced brown sugar pavlova topped with apple cider whipped cream, pistachio caramel and fresh apples, made sheet pan style for easy slicing and serving!
Can you tell I’m ready for fall? lol. Let’s face it, summer 2020 hasn’t been the greatest. Aside from all the social distancing, it’s been crazy hot in DC and even going out for walks around the neighborhood has been uncomfortable. I am twiddling my fingers for sweater season, mugs of hot cider, and pomegranates and of course, my favorite fall activities: pumpkin and apple picking! Speaking of apples…
We all know apples and caramel go together like pb & j. But remember as a kid how much you loved apple slices dipped in peanut butter? I made a peanut butter caramel awhile back which combined the two faves and vowed to try it with other nuts. The pistachio variation is by far my favorite. However, if you’ve been here awhile you might know that fall (and winter) is when I cider everrrything: cheesecake, ice cream, meringue, cookies, marshmallows…etc. Once you make a basic caramel sauce you’ll add a bit of a nut butter, or reduced (boiled) cider. Holy moly, it’s wonderful! So much tastier than a basic caramel sauce.
Originally I made mini pavlovas for the caramel and apples, and twice I used the traditional method of adding sugar to whipped whites, but my sugar wasn’t dissolving and I was getting a grainy texture post-bake (IDK why – it’s not like this is my first meringue!). I then turned to the Swiss method which I found in Ottolenghi’s Sweet; heating the sugar and eggs together until the sugar dissolves and then whipping. It worked much better for me, although I still got cracks (which tbh are pretty! But I was after perfection here). This was possibly due to my slightly hotter than standard oven, or the fact that I was whipping it to very stiff peaks. After making the domed one you see in these pics, I woke up the next morning and instinctively knew that it would work better spread out (and I’d have more real estate for this delicious topping) so I made it sheet pan style!
A funny story: the sheet-pan pavlova in the photos was the one that baked up absolutely perfect. I was ecstatic that after 3 days and 5 pavlovas, I had finally succeeded in making one that hadn’t cracked and had a super smooth exterior (it was also incredibly delicious!). It had baked for 2 hours at 225, then cooled for another 2 with just the light on (don’t open that oven door!). And then, while I was reading to the girls in another room, my husband began making lunch and pre-heated the oven… with the cooled pavlova inside. I only heard the ‘beep!’ after it had reached 375. I launched myself to the kitchen, roared at him about this being THE ONE and pulled it out – but it was probably too late, it had begun cracking from being exposed to such a high heat. Don’t worry, I forgave him… an hour later, lol.
I don’t know if this is a thing yet, but if not I have to tell you it should be! Here’s why you should make your pavlova sheet pan: it’s easier to shape – you don’t have to worry about how to make a perfectly gorgeous dome; it’s easier to add toppings (you get more topping per-slice this way too!); and it’s SO much easier to slice and serve. In fact, with the apples I got such perfect slices (pictured) I felt like I was a pastry chef at a high end restaurant, lol.
Eggs: You could make a vegan pavlova with aquafaba but I haven’t tried it myself.
Sugar: I do half granulated and half brown (dark or light) and don’t recommend going all brown as there would be too much moisture which would affect the meringue.
Vinegar & cornstarch: Any vinegar is fine. I use apple cider vinegar because it complements the rest of my flavors. The vinegar and cornstarch are necessary to keep the center soft and marshmallow like. For the cornstarch you can use tapioca instead.
Spices: mine is a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger but you can use a combination to your liking. Just don’t add more than 2 teaspoons spices.
Heavy cream: If you put a can of coconut cream in the fridge, it should be able to whip up like heavy cream.
Sugar: Brown (light or dark) or granulated is fine. You could also sweeten this with maple syrup instead.
Caramel: The only ingredient you can substitute for is the nut butter; use peanut butter, almond, hazelnut, etc. Or of course, the boiled cider.
Apples: If you are making this when they are in season, (early August – September), Rave® apples are the one! If it’s later, aim for a tart, firm apple.
Whip all ingredients together until medium peaks.
To keep the apples from browning, after you’ve sliced them place them in a bowl filled with 6 cups water and 3 teaspoons salt. Let them sit for about 10 minutes. Drain them before assembling the pavlova.