Inspired in part by Hopefield’s 1970s stalwart, the Commercial Hotel, this retro dessert takes on local flavour with the inclusion of rooibos tea and West Coast honey.
Inherently a popular dessert in the Seventies, the pavlova is appealingly kitsch in both presentation and flavour. It’s a veritable cloud of confectionery, with its classic combination of meringue, whipped cream and fruit and, since its inception, has been the centrepiece of many a dinner party
Pavlova is traditionally served in the festive season and is easily adaptable to myriad toppings, the most popular of which is fruit. For this recipe, I combined the popular holiday flavours of pear, star anise and cinnamon with the rooibos tea endemic to South Africa’s West Coast. A simple syrup made from the tea infusion and thickened with West Coast honey makes for an ideal accompaniment, drizzled over poached fruit.
poached pear pavlova with rooibos and honey
Prep time: 30 minutes / Cook time: 2.5 hours plus cooling time / Serves: 6 to 8
For the pavlova:
3 extra-large egg whites at room temperature
250ml castor sugar
1t vanilla extract
1t white vinegar
For the topping:
4 to 6 large pears, washed
A little lemon juice
250ml castor sugar
4T West Coast or fynbos honey
250ml ready-made strong, black rooibos tea
Aromatics, such as a few dried star anises and a cinnamon stick
300ml fresh double cream
Preheat the oven to 120°C and line a large baking sheet with baking paper. Place the egg whites into a large, clean glass bowl and beat until they form stiff peaks (glass ensures a stiffer peak). Gradually add in the sugar, one teaspoon at a time and beat until the mixture is glossy and thickened. Beat in the vanilla, cornflour and vinegar before spooning the mixture onto the baking sheet and spreading into a circle. Don’t worry if the pavlova isn’t symmetrical, the key is height rather than size. Bake for 90 minutes before switching off the oven and leaving the pavlova inside until it is completely cool.
For the topping, peel the pears, leaving the stalks on, and brush with a little lemon juice to prevent them from discolouring. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar, honey and rooibos tea and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add in the aromatics and simmer the liquid until slightly reduced. Place the pears in the liquid and poach for about 25 minutes or until soft. Remove and set aside. Remove the aromatics and reduce the reserved liquid down to a syrupy consistency. Allow to cool.
To assemble the pavlova, whip the cream into peaks and spoon over the top of the meringue. Place the cooled poached pears in the centre and drizzle the cooled rooibos syrup over everything. Serve immediately.