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Pavlova (Pav) is a Meringue Cake that has a light and delicately crisp crust with a soft marshmallow center. This dessert is typically served with whipped cream and fresh fruit. There is a long standing debate about whether New Zealand or Australia invented this dessert. What we do know is that the name, Pavlova, was chosen in honor of the Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova, who toured both New Zealand and Australia in 1926.

A few notes on making a Pavlova. First, a Pavlova is a meringue, and it is important when making any meringue that the egg whites reach maximum volume, so make sure your mixing bowl and whisk are clean and free of grease. Since we need just the whites of the eggs, the eggs will need to be separated. It is easier to do this while the eggs are still cold. Once separated, cover the egg whites and let them come to room temperature before using (about 30 to 60 minutes). I like to use superfine sugar (castor) when making this meringue as it dissolves faster into the egg whites than granulated white sugar. You can make your own superfine sugar by processing 1 cup (200 grams) granulated white sugar in your food processor until very fine, about 30 - 60 seconds.

To make a Pavlova, first beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Cream of tartar (or an equal amount of lemon juice) is added to stabilize the egg whites and prevent over beating. Then add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, and continue to beat until the meringue forms stiff and shiny peaks. Beat in the vanilla extract and then gently fold in the cornstarch and vinegar. (Adding these two ingredients will give the Pavlova a crust that is dry and crisp, with a soft marshmallow-like interior.)

Australian Stephanie Alexander in her excellent book "The Cook's Companion" gives us a few pointers on how to tell a good Pavlova, "if syrupy droplets form on the surface of the meringue, you'll know you have overcooked it; liquid oozing from the meringue is a sign of undercooking". So it is best to cook the meringue in a slow oven and then to turn off the oven and let it cool slowly. This will take several hours.

The Pavlova can be a day or two in advance of serving, if it is stored in a cool dry place, in an airtight container. A Pavlova is usually served with softly whipped cream and fresh fruit. Because of the sweetness of the meringue I like to offset the sweetness with tart flavored fruits. Passion fruit, kiwi, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries are some of my personal favorites. Try to place the whipped cream and fruit on the meringue shortly before serving as the meringue will immediately start to soften and break down from the moisture of the whipped cream and fruit.

Continue to the Pavlova recipe page......

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Stephanie Jaworski

 

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