We lived in Australia for four years and loved every minute of it, leaving behind dear friends and wonderful memories. One of those memories was of Pavlova, a beautifully light and sweet dessert named after the Russian prima ballerina Anna Pavlova, who toured Australia and New Zealand in the 1920s. There has been a long-standing debate based on primary and secondary sources and lots of national pride, as to whether the dessert was first created in New Zealand or Australia. Though the scales may have now tipped toward New Zealand (with the Oxford English Dictionary crediting the first written record of the recipe to New Zealand), it is a question that may never be satisfactorily answered; in an elegant diplomatic maneuver, the OED also lists the origin of pavlova as “Austral. and N.Z.”
For our family, the answer is simple: since we first encountered Pavlova in Australia, it will for us forever remain as one of our favorite Australian desserts.
The version in the photo below is a double recipe, prepared in a rimmed 18 x 12-inch jelly roll pan–which was a mistake. There was no easy way to get the meringue out and onto a serving platter without shattering it into pieces–so we served the Pavlova straight from the pan, lifting each piece off the baking/parchment paper with a thin spatula. It was a bit messier than usual, but due to the amazing decorating job by three enthusiastic teenagers, and to the fantastic blend of flavors that has made this such a beloved recipe, no one minded. In the future, though, I’ll remember to use an unrimmed baking sheet….
6 large egg whites
1 1/2 c. + 1/8 c. sugar
2 tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. white vinegar
1 1/2 c. cream
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 large punnet strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 small punnet blackberries
1 small punnet raspberries
2 kiwis, peeled and sliced
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Draw a 9″ circle on baking/parchment paper and place it on a baking sheet. Spray the paper with baking spray.
3. Combine egg whites and the pinch of salt in a very clean and completely dry large bowl, and beat until stiff peaks form (you can also use a stand mixer). Gradually add sugar, a tablespoon or two at a time, beating constantly, until the mixture is very glossy and the bowl can be held upside down without the meringue falling out. Gently whisk in the cornstarch and vinegar.
4. Using a spatula, spread the mixture onto the paper circle on the baking sheet; smooth the top with the spatula.
5. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake the meringue for 5 minutes, then turn the heat down to 270 degrees and bake another 75 minutes, or until the outside of the meringue is crisp, but the inside is soft and chewy. Turn the oven off and leave the meringue in the oven, with the door ajar, for 15 minutes.
6. Slide the meringue, still on the baking paper, onto a rack and allow to cool completely. It will crack a bit when cooling; this is normal. Using two spatulas or a pizza peel, carefully lift the meringue off the baking paper and place on a serving platter.
7. Whip the cream with the sugar and vanilla until stiff peaks form. Try to use as little sugar in the whipped cream as your palate will allow, to offset the very sweet meringue.
8. Spread the whipped cream on the meringue and add the fruit in a decorative pattern. (The great thing about pavlovas is you can decorate them any way you like, with whatever fruit you prefer.)
Recipe adapted from Australian Table magazine.