Pavlova is a light and fluffy meringue dessert named after the ballet dancer Anna Pavlova. Both Wellington, New Zealand and Perth, Australia claim to be the home of the dish. The earliest record of the recipe is a cookbook published in New Zealand in 1933, two years before claims made in Perth.
Pavlova is traditionally decorated with fresh fruit and whipped cream, and is especially popular in Australia and New Zealand. Factory-made pavlovas can be purchased at supermarkets in those countries and decorated as desired.
Leftover pavlova can be stored in the fridge overnight, but will absorb moisture from the air and lose its crispness. Undecorated pavlova can safely be left overnight in the oven in which it was baked, to be decorated in the morning.
A popular tried and true recipe contains the following:
- 3 egg whites
- 3 tablespoons water
- 250g (9 oz.) caster sugar
- pinch of salt
- 5 ml or 1 tsp vinegar
- 5 ml or 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 tsp. cornstarch (optional)
- Beat the egg whites and salt to a very stiff consistency. Add water and beat again before folding in caster sugar, vanilla and vinegar. Beat until the mixture holds its shape and stands in sharp peaks.
- Pour the mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Slow-bake the mixture at 150°C (300°F) to dry all the moisture and create the meringue, approximately 45 minutes. This leaves the outside of the pavlova a crisp crunchy shell, while the interior remains soft and moist.
- A top tip (but not traditional) is to turn the pavlova upside down before decorating with cream and fruit because the bottom is less crispy than the top after cooking and unless you serve it immediately after decorating the "top" absorbs moisture from the cream. Another tip is to leave the pavlova in the oven after turning off the heat - this helps to prevent the middle of the pavlova from collapsing (although if it does collapse, generous application of cream can hide any mistakes!)