Light and crisp meringue and whatever berries you fancy are the basis for this delightful dessert. It’s so good, in fact, that Australia and New Zealand have been battling for decades over who invented it.
Not to take sides, but it does seem that the Kiwis may be right – it shows up in New Zealand cookbooks first. But both nations agree that it was named for the Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova, who toured both countries in 1926. A chef at one of the hotels where she stayed – quite possibly in Wellington, New Zealand – created a dessert in her honour.
Whoever made it, in Australia and New Zealand, Pavlova is the summer dessert. It’s light, it’s fresh, and it cooks without a lot of oven time to heat up the kitchen, so it’s perfect for socializing at Christmas, in the middle of the southern summer. This makes it perfect for Muskoka in August.
Pavlova doesn’t have a lot of ingredients, but it’s a dish where it’s worthwhile to pay attention to your technique. Australia cooking site Recipe Tin Eats describes it as “notoriously easy, and notoriously difficult.”
Patience is your friend with pavlova. Make your meringue base the day before, cook it slowly, and let it cool even more slowly so it holds its shape.
You can even make it days in advance, but be sure to keep it at room temperature in an airtight tin – if it absorbs moisture, the meringue loses its lovely crispness. It will not keep in the fridge.
Four egg whites
1 ¼ cups superfine sugar
1 tbsp corn starch, sifted
1 tsp white vinegar
1 ½ cups whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla
Fruit of your choice
Separate eggs, and let whites warm up to room temperature. Be careful that not a drop of yolk is found in your whites! Return yolks to the fridge for use in another recipe.
Preheat oven to 250.
Place a piece of parchment paper on the base of a springform cake pan, and trim the paper to the size of the pan.
Place room-temperature egg whites in a bowl and use a mixer to beat until soft peaks form.
Add 1 cup sugar, 1 tbsp at a time, beating constantly. Continue beating for another three minutes until mixture is glossy and smooth, with not a trace of sugary graininess.
Add corn starch and white vinegar and beat for just a few seconds to combine.
Gently pile the egg white mixture on the parchment paper, place the cake pan on a baking sheet, and place in the oven. Work quickly but gently to get the pavlova in the oven as soon as possible.
Bake for 1 ½ hours. Do not open the oven door, or jostle the pavlova, as this can cause it to collapse.
Turn off the oven, but leave the pavlova in there to cool completely – overnight is perfect.
When you’re ready to serve, whip the cream with remaining ¼ cup of sugar and vanilla, just until it’s thickened and holds its shape.
Peel parchment paper off the bottom of the pavlova and place it on a serving dish. If it breaks or cracks, use the whipping cream as glue to stick it back together!
Top with cream, and then fruit. Serve immediately.