Pavlova: Crispy and Fluffy and Topped with Fruit

it's one of many celebrated trans-tasman rivalries...

it’s one of many celebrated trans-tasman rivalries…

The issue of the origins of the Pavlova dessert is a contentious one in the southwestern Pacific region.   New Zealanders and Australians like to debate the topic of its national origins.  I *think* it’s a friendly debate, though I can’t say for sure.  Apparently, a chef at a hotel in Wellington created this light and sweet dessert for Anna Pavlova in the 20’s.  Or was it the chef in Perth in 1935?

click for source and recipe

click for source and recipe

At any rate, it’s incredible.  I encountered Pavlova as a recent transplant from the NH and have been addicted ever since.  It’s crispy and light on the outside and marshmallowy on the inside.  Its delicious and melts on your tongue, leaving behind a soft kiss of sugar.

double... layered... ! click for source

double… layered… ! click for source

The meringue base is typically made of egg whites, vinegar, sugar, cornflour (or in American-speak, cornstarch) and a bit of salt.   I’ve also seen recipes that include cream of tartar, vanilla and etc but I’m not sure if that’s allowed.  I’m not from around here.

click for source article- interesting Pavlova lore and NZ recipe

click for source article- interesting Pavlova lore and NZ recipe

Once the dreamy meringue base cools, antipodean cooks top it with whipped cream and fruit.  My favorite is strawberry, blueberry and kiwi.  My husband says a Pavlova isn’t a Pavlova without passionfruit, though.  Isn’t it a pretty pretty dish?

Pavlova Front

Pavlova Front

It’s so pretty, I used the fruity colors and the shades of meringue to create the color palette we used for the Pavlova Wrap Top & Skirt’s cover art.  How’s that for thematic harmony?

Picture 41

click for source and another recipe

At any rate, I recently asked my Australian mother-in-law if she’d mind teaching us all to make Pavlova.  I adore the dish, and hers is the best I’ve ever had.  She said yes!  The trick is to coordinate, and get all the good action shots and etc.  We’ll do that in the next few weeks, and I’ll be sure to share!

click for source.  A bit of a rant (is he mad or not?  I never can tell..) about the origins of the Pavlova debate...

click for source. A bit of a rant (is he mad or not? I never can tell..) about the origins of the Pavlova debate… And the photos!

Meanwhile- Kiwis and Aussies, tell me who has the best claim to the creation of the Pavlova, or did the OED ruling in 2010 end the discussion? What do you top yours with?   What goes into the base?  Want to share your recipe?  Everyone else: have you had the privilege of feasting on this delicacy?  Have you ever heard of it?

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  1. I love Pavlova and always make it with the egg whites left over from making Spaghetti Carbonara. I usually use Jamie Oliver’s recipe, but am looking forward to seeing your MIL’s version. I’m prepared to be swayed to a new recipe. We usually have cream and fruit, but if I’m feeling the need for a lighter version I use half Greek yoghurt, half crème fraiche for a totally different taste.

    • GREAT idea! I always try to steer clear of ‘yolk only’ recipes because I hate wasting / didn’t know what to do with the left over whites, until now!

  2. I can’t comment on the origins! All I know is I like to top mine with mango and ginger or really fresh raspberries and strawberries when they’re in season over here. I use a lob it all in recipe from Rachel Allen and it hasn’t let me down yet! Lovely crisp crust and clouds of squidgey mallow in the middle.

    • Hehehe. Mango and ginger? Neat. I’ll have to pass that on, we have a huge amount of mangoes around at the moment and I don’t eat them…

      Oh! An easy recipe that also can be relied upon. What else is there? :)

  3. As a proud New Zealander, I’m not going to kick anything off, but love mine with raspberries and passionfruit …. mmmm!
    Interestingly, when I make it here it has a very marshmallowy consistency without the crispy shell, but when I made the same recipe while living in the US, it came out with the crispy shell and much sweeter – apparently because the sugar is ground finer, you fit more in your cup measure?!

    • Hehe. I think no one wants to go there! :) Mmmm raspberries…

      Maybe! When I moved here, I was devastated to discover I could no longer bake. I always enjoyed baking, and took a little pride in it…. I felt like I’d lost the gift or something but slowly have worked out how to bake again… Slowly. Sugar is definitely one of them, I find the powdered sugar here is very disappointing and labor intensive… Weird, isn’t it? Or maybe not so weird after all…

  4. I am a pavlova diva. It’s my party trick. :) I use a recipe with hot water in it that makes a ginormous pav with only 4 egg whites. The two I make most often are rose scented, and one where I sub the malt vinegar for balsamic and add orange zest and white pepper. My sister make an amazing coffee one. So yup, this side of the ditch it is allowed to put extras in! For toppings we use raspberries, orange slices, blueberries, and in winter I’ve even resorted to chocolate and nuts. :)

  5. Can’t we Aussie’s and Kiwi,s share the origins of it between us? I use to make it with the egg whites,vinegar,sugar and cornflour. Favorite toppings, Kiwi fruit, strawberries, pineapple (usually canned) and of course Passionfruit. Also lots of fresh cream. I haven’t had Pavlova in over a year, no longer appeals to me.

  6. Yummy! I use Stephanie Alexander’s recipe and serve it like she does – upside down so the cream melts into the middle and the bottom stays crisp.

  7. Love Pavlova topped with lemon curd AND whipped cream and fruit. Or a chocolate pavlova layered with chocolate ganache and toasted nuts. Mmmmmmm.

  8. I made my first pav at Christmas time, it actually wasn’t too bad, only sank a little bit! Piled in fruit is the way I like it, especially berries. Strawberries, blueberries, and chocolate chips. Yum!!

    • That sounds so good. This post is making my mouth water…. Writing it last night and commenting this morning! I need to go work on that recipe with MIL so I can have one all the time…

  9. I have made the chocolate Pav’s out of the wicked woman’s weekly cook book they are topped with berries which is very nice. But my favorite topping is peppermint crisp chopped up on top with strawberry’s around the edge.

  10. Much as I would love to vote for my home town, I think New Zealand has the real claim to fame here. I’m unable to share a recipe as my pavs are generally failures. It’s not pav without strawberries and passionfruit. Yum!!

    Cream of tartar is allowed, I believe it helps stabilise the egg whites. Lemon juice or vinegar would do the same thing. I look forward to seeing your Mum’s recipe, maybe I’ll give it another go!!

    • Oh how interesting, thanks for the tidbit about stabilization. Science! :)

      She’s my husband’s mum. Mine is American and lives there. :) hehe.

  11. Never eaten one before. Seeing that they can be made gluten free I may give it a go then since I need to get back into baking. It sounds delicious!

    • Yes! It’s such a dream dessert really.. No gluten, low fat, low calories, piled high with fiber and vitamin rich fruit. And apparently, probably, easy to make. :)

  12. I had the good fortune to spend a whole year in Oz back in 1998 (ancient history!) and could not get enough of this dreamy dessert. Totally looking forward to your mother-in-law’s recipe!

    • Ah, where abouts? :)

      We’ll get on it. She’ll do the baking, I’ll set up the photos and take the shots and write it up… Should be a good kitchen collaboration…

  13. I should remember pavlova next time I need a family dinner dessert. With my one brother eating halal, you’d be surprised how tricky it can be with so many recipes calling for alcohol or gelatin. And if my MIL is visiting, like EmSewCrazy said, it could be made gluten free. Not often I find one dessert that meets everyones dietary needs.

  14. I would have to agree with your husband in that a pav is not a pav without passionfruit. I’m actually not sure I’ve ever encountered one without it, though I’ve certainly seen them made, and heard people complain about the lack. Regardless of toppings, they really do scream summer, don’t they?

    Being an egg allergy house and having strangely never been too fond of them anyway, they’re not something that gets made here, but since the purpose of the cream of tartar is to stabilise the eggwhites with acidity, I’d guess that a recipe with vinegar in it doesn’t need cream of tartar as well. My other meringue recipes all use it though.

    • Yes. He’s quite snarky about the passionfruit…. I don’t care for a lot of tropical fruit, myself, and it upsets my stomach so I tend to avoid passionfruit and mangoes and the like. Lemons, too. He’s always trying to get me to eat all sorts of exotic fruit, too.. Lychees, dragonfruit, etc. Lychees smell like perfume, but eating them… Meh.. Then we had a load of these orange things the other week that looked ok, but the inside looked like white snot… I couldn’t get past that…

      How very very interesting to know that about the cream of tartar… Neat. :)

  15. As a fellow Australian, who misses a good pav like the dickens, I would have to say a pav is not a pav without passionfruit. I wish I could make it here but passionfruit are really hard to find (and expensive at about $3 a piece!). I never knew how good we had it growing up with a vine in the backyard.

    • Awwww! Can you grow a vine in your backyard now? They seem to grow easily… I feel you on the passionfruit, I am the same about blueberries and cherries… Although this year they were actually inexpensive enough for us to buy, something about local berries grown in northern NSW on new blueberry farms. Honestly, I’ve never SEEN such plump and flavorsome berries… Dear me, I’m rambling…

  16. I had my first pavlova when I was living in the Czech Republic in the 90s. It was made by a British friend, and I had never heard of it before, so certainly can’t comment on its origins. ;) I use the British friend’s recipe, and when she made it, it was always topped with whipped cream and whatever berries we could find. Not a lot of passionfruit in Prague. Love it, and it’s high time I made one!

    • Yes!


      I just had an idea… I’ll get us a recipe and method from MIL and we can bake them up and compare how they bake up according to our local eggs and sugars and humidity… Oooooh…. Pavlovas for science!

  17. I freeze any left over egg whites then thaw when I need to make a pavlova I don’t top mind at family gatherings I make a large 8 egg pavlova then I have small bowls filled with different toppings so everyone can customise to their taste. cream, crushed peppermint crisp (chocolate coated peppermint candy), strawberries, mixed berries, ice cream, small marshmallows. That way you can slice as big or small as you want and have your topping. Not that it has ever happen but if there is left over pavlova just cut up fresh topping and go for it

  18. As far as I know, you can use vinegar and cream of tartar interchangeably (excuse my spelling). Both of these ingredients stabilise the meringue. I have used both with success at school and at home. I’m not the worlds biggest fan of pavlova, however if I’m having one I like one with a nice crispy shell (that’s my favourite part). I also like to top mine with creme patissierie, strawberries and passionfruit. No kiwifruit for me – the allergic reaction just isn’t worth it. Have fun with your pavlova making lessons!

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