It’s Australia Day and I had to make something iconic to celebrate – a pavlova came to mind. This quintessential dessert is meringue based with a crisp shell and a light & fluffy centre. It is topped with whipped cream and fruit – my favourite combination being strawberry’s with passionfruit pulp.
The pavlova is named in honour of Anna Pavlova, a Russian ballet dancer who travelled to Australia and New Zealand in the 1920’s, there is some dispute as to whether it was created in New Zealand as opposed to Australia but at the end of day its origin is inconsiquential, it is a celebrated national cuisine in both countries. I have my own little story of the lovely ‘pav’ and it couldn’t be further removed from the graceful undertones set by its namesake because it’s about two girls having an eating competition.
In my final years at school I had cravings for pavlova and challenged my good friend Nicki to a pavlova eating competition as an excuse to eat alot of this fine concoction. I turned up to school laden with an enormous pavlova covered in whipped cream and berries ready for some serious meringue action. In the first round I was so in awe of Nicki’s pavlova eating prowess that all I could eat were two mouthfuls while I watched her quickly devour three pieces. By the second round (a week later with an improved technique), I still only managed one piece because I was laughing so hard while Nicki quickly (and very seriously) polished off four. To this day I still cannot fathom how this whippet thin friend of mine could eat so much, so quickly and so neatly.
Nicki and I haven’t eaten pavlova together since but we remain dear friends. It has crossed my mind to suggest a third challenge but I might leave till we are old and rickety with more time on our hands. It might also give me a chance to get in some practice too – which I shall enjoy because it still is one of my most favourite desserts. Happy Australia Day folks!
4 egg whites or 150 mls of egg white
1 cup caster (superfine) sugar
3 teaspoons cornflour (cornstarch), sifted
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup single (pouring) cream
½ cup passionfruit pulp (approximately 4 passionfruit)
1 1/2 cups of strawberries, hulled and halved
Preheat oven to 150c/300f. Place the eggwhite in the bowl of an electric mixer and whisk until stiff peaks form. Gradually add the sugar, whisking well, until the mixture is stiff and glossy (the mixture should have tripled in volume and stand up when the beaters are lifted).
Add the cornflour, vanilla and vinegar and whisk until just combined. Shape the mixture into an 7″ round on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper. Reduce oven to 120c/250f and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Turn the oven off and allow the pavlova to cool completely in the oven. Whisk the cream until soft peaks form. Spread over the pavlova, top with passionfruit and strawberries and serve immediately.
Notes: As you can see I couldn’t get my hands on passionfruit pulp so I used a mixture of berries instead which were nice but I recommend the passionfruit if you can find it – the slightly tart taste really works well with the sweet meringue. Also, you can store your pavlova, undressed, in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.
Source: Adapted from recipes by Donna Hay and Stephanie Alexander
© 2011, Michelle. All rights reserved.