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Brown sugar pavlova is less sweet than regular pavlova and the meringue has a hint of molasses. Photo: Koji Studio

How to make brown sugar pavlova: dial down the sweetness on this classic dessert from Down Under

  • The meringue, whipped cream and fresh fruit combo adds a hint of molasses by using brown sugar
  • Passion fruit is a must-have to balance out the sweetness of the meringue

Rightly or wrongly, pavlova is the dessert I and many others associate with Australia and New Zealand. Yes, I know there are other famous desserts Down Under but this is so popular there that there are even pavlova instant mixes.

Brown sugar pavlova

My main complaint about pavlova is that it is too sweet. This version, which was taught to me by my Australian former food stylist Rachael Macchiesi, uses brown sugar instead of white. Brown sugar contains a small amount of molasses, which has a dark, slightly bitter flavour, making the pavlova a little less sweet. For the topping, you can use different types of fresh fruit, although berries seem to be most popular. The passion fruit is essential, however, because its tartness balances the sweetness of the meringue. When buying passion fruit, choose ones that feel heavy and have soft, slightly wrinkled shells.

The meringue doesn’t take long to prepare, but it takes several hours to bake and then slowly cool in the oven, so give yourself plenty of time. If you are making this dessert on a humid day, store the meringue in the turned-off oven until it is time to assemble and serve. Instead of being crisp and dry, as with most other meringues, a pavlova meringue has a slightly chewy texture from the addition of a small amount of vinegar.

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125 grams egg whites, at room temperature

¼ tsp fine sea salt

135 grams light brown sugar, such as muscovado

10 grams cornflour

10ml distilled white vinegar

1 tsp vanilla extract

To serve:

250ml cream, chilled

10 grams granulated sugar, or to taste

3 or 4 passion fruit

Fresh fruit of choice, such as raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries or kiwis, or a mixture

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1 Preheat the oven to 110 degrees Celsius (230 degrees Fahrenheit).

2 Lightly spray a baking tray with pan-coating and line it as smoothly as possible with aluminium foil. Spray the foil with pan-coating, then dust it lightly with flour, shaking off the excess. With a 23cm round pan (or pan lid) as a guide, use your fingertip to trace a circle onto the foil.

3 Mix together the sugar and cornflour, pressing out any lumps in the sugar.

4 Using a clean, dry mixing bowl and the whip attach­ment on an electric mixer, start whipping the egg whites at a low-medium speed until foamy.

Whip the egg whites. Photo: Shutterstock

5 Add the salt and continue to whip the mixture until it turns white and frothy.

6 Turn the mixer speed to medium-high and add the sugar/cornflour in a slow, steady stream.

7 Continue to whip until the meringue is glossy and forms medium-stiff peaks. Add the vinegar and vanilla, and whip until it forms glossy stiff peaks.

8 Use a rubber spatula to scrape the mixture into the centre of the prepared circle. Spread it out to the perimeter, shaping it so the edge is about 4cm higher than the middle.

9 Place the tray in the oven and bake at 110 Celsius (230 Fahrenheit) for two to three hours, or until the meringue is firm (touch it in several spots) and baked through. Turn off the heat, but leave the tray in the oven until it is completely cool.

10 Just before serving, carefully remove the fragile meringue from the foil and place it on a serving plate.

11 Whip the chilled cream with the sugar (adding more, if you like) until it forms soft peaks. Use a large spoon to spread the whipped cream over the meringue, spreading it almost to the edge.

12 Place the fruit over the cream. If using strawberries, trim off and discard the stems, then cut the berries in halves or quarters, depending on size. If using kiwis, trim off and discard the peel, then cut the fruit into bite-size pieces.

Passion fruit cuts through the sweetness of the meringue. Photo: Getty Images

13 Cut the passion fruit in half and scoop out the liquid and seeds, spooning it directly over the pavlova. Serve immediately.