Merelyn has always found pavlova so alluring but the meringue just too sweet. Sour cream (even more glorious whipped) is now her go-to topping, and a salted tahini caramel adds an irresistible layer of umami. The caramel recipe is tweaked from one of Katrina Meynink’s on goodfood.com.au; she discovered it in Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh’s beautiful cookbook, Sweet. When figs are at their seasonal juicy peak, you don’t need to bother grilling them.
6 egg whites, at room temperature pinch of salt
400g (1¾ cups) caster (superfine) sugar
2 teaspoons cornflour (corn starch)
1½ teaspoons vanilla bean paste
1½ teaspoons white vinegar
Salted Tahini Caramel Sauce
80g (1/3 cup) caster (superfine) sugar
2 tablespoons water
40g unsalted butter, chopped
2 tablespoons pure (35% fat) cream
50g (¼ cup) tahini (raw sesame seed paste)
¼ teaspoon sea salt
500g figs, quartered
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoon shelled pistachios, roasted
375g (1½ cups) sour cream, whisked to soft peaks
This meringue base is best started 1 day ahead.
Preheat the oven to 150°C (Gas 2). Grease an ovenproof cake platter.
To make the meringue base, whisk the eggwhites with the salt until softpeaks form, then slowly add the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing continuously until all the sugar is incorporated. Whisk until glossy, about 5 minutes, then add the cornflour and whisk again for a few more minutes.
Test to see if all the sugar has broken down by rubbing a bit of meringue between your fingers. There should be virtually no grains of sugar remaining. Using a metal spoon or a spatula, gently fold in the vanilla and vinegar.
Pile the meringue on top of the platter and flatten a little with a spatula to form a circle of about 25cm. Reduce the temperature to 110°C (Gas ½) and bake for 2 hours, then turn the oven offand leave the pavlova in the closed oven until completely cool (or overnight).
To make the caramel, place the sugar and water in a small heavy-based saucepan over medium heat, and cook, stirring, until the sugar has melted. Bring to the boil, then continue to simmer over low heat for about 8 minutes or until the mixture is a rich, dark brown caramel (and just reaches 175°C on a sugar thermometer).
Remove from the heat and add the butter and cream, stirring constantly and taking care as the mixture may spit. Add the tahini and salt and whisk thoroughly until combined. The sauce can be stored in the fridge and warmed very gently in the microwave for drizzling. If it splits when warming, add 1 tablespoon of hot water and stir.
For the fig topping, preheat the oven grill to high and line a baking tray with aluminium foil. Place the figs on the tray, drizzle with the honey and grill for 5 minutes or until warmed through and slightly collapsed. Set aside to cool. Roughly chop the pistachios and set aside.
To serve, top the meringue with the sour cream, then the figs. Drizzle the tahini sauce on top and scatter over the pistachios (even though we forgot them in the photo).