Autumn fruit pavlova with apple and vanilla cream

Pavlova is always a popular treat. I like the fact that you can mix and match the fruit depending on what’s readily available. Heading out into the orchard or on a country walk and picking blackberries to add to the pavlova makes a lovely addition, for example. You could also use pears, plums, cherries, figs… just try it with your favourites.

Serves 12

Prep 35 mins + cooling

Cook 45 mins

For the apple and vanilla cream

1 large cooking apple, such as a Bramley, peeled, cored and chopped

4 tablespoons caster (superfine) sugar

2 tablespoons water

½ vanilla pod (bean), split in half lengthways and seeds scraped out

400 ml (13 fl oz/ generous 1½ cups) double (heavy) cream

zest of ½ lime

For the meringue

6 egg whites

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

350 g (12 oz/1½ cups) caster (superfine) sugar

For the topping

selection of autumn fruits: apples, blackberries, pears, plums, figs, pomegranates

juice of ½ lemon

To serve

mint, finely sliced

lime zest

To make the apple and vanilla cream, heat the apple, half of the sugar and the water in a pan over a medium heat. Stir until the apple begins to break down, then simmer for 5 minutes until you have a smooth apple sauce. Stir in the vanilla seeds and leave to one side to fully cool.

Whisk the cream and the remaining sugar in an electric mixer until you have stiff peaks. This will take about 5 minutes. Add the lime zest and mix through.

Once the apple sauce is fully cool, lightly stir through the cream. You don’t want to mix it completely; it should have a marbled effect.

To make the meringue, preheat a fan oven to 120°C (250°F/gas 1) and cut three pieces of baking parchment to fit three baking sheets. Draw a 20 cm (8 in) circle clearly onto each piece of parchment, then turn the paper upside down on the baking sheet; you should still be able to see the circles.

Now make the meringue. Using an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and vinegar on a medium-high speed for a couple minutes. Add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, and continue beating until you have very stiff peaks. Using a spatula divide the meringue between the three circles and use the back of the spatula to spread the meringue into even discs that fill the circles.

Bake in the oven for 40 minutes until firm. Turn the oven off and leave the oven door ajar to allow the meringues to cool and harden in the oven. This will take about 1 hour 30 minutes.

To assemble the pavlova, slice and prepare your chosen fruit. For the apples, slice with the skins on and soak in some cool water with the lemon juice for a few minutes so that they keep their colour. Drain before adding to the other fruit.

Just before serving, place one meringue disc on a cake stand and spread a third of the apple cream on top. Then add a third of the fruit.

Top with the next meringue disc, spread a third of the cream and another third of the fruit. Finally repeat with the last of the ingredients. Garnish with mint and lime zest, then serve.

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