Some Australian friends recently educated me about the existence of this dessert one described simply as, "like heaven in your mouth." It is a sweet meringue dessert named for the famed ballet dancer, Anna Pavlova.

Whether the dish actually originated in Australia or New Zealand is of considerable debate down under but, according to Pavlova's biographer, the dish was created by a chef at a hotel in Wellington, New Zealand, when she visited there in 1926 on her world tour. (This article lays out the particulars of the controversy.)

The cake is topped with fresh fruit, traditionally strawberries, passionfruit and kiwifruit. Bananas and grapes are also common and British derivations call for raspberries and blackberries. One of my friends suggested grating a Peppermint Crisp - a chocolate bar with peppermint flavoring - over it as well.

One ingredient that may need explanation is castor sugar. This is sold as "superfine" sugar in the US and it is used because it dissolves more quickly than regular white sugar. If you don’t have any castor sugar on hand, you can make your own by grinding granulated sugar for a couple of minutes in a food processor.

Making a meringue is a touchy process. If your meringue starts to brown, the oven temperature is too high causing the sugar to caramelize. And if you make meringues on a rainy or humid day, you will probably have to bake the meringues longer (could be up to 30 minutes more) than on a dry day.

The shape of the cake is formed by using a spatula to mould the meringue on the baking tray. Although using a greased, spring-form tray is an option, it is not necessary. Another variation one of my friends suggested is turning it over after cooking so the top becomes the bottom.

  • 3 egg whites
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2/3 cup castor sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornflour
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 drops vanilla essence
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 300°F.

Whisk egg whites, salt and vinegar and beat until soft peaks form which fold over when the beater is removed. Gradually add the castor sugar and vanilla essence beating continuously until mixture stands in firm peaks.

Mix together the white sugar and cornflour. Lightly fold into the meringue with the lemon juice.

Line an oven tray with baking paper. Spread the meringue into a circle.

Bake for 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave in the oven overnight to cool.

Whip the heavy cream until almost stiff. Add sugar and beat until cream holds peaks.

Remove from the oven and decorate with whipped cream and top with sliced kiwifruit and sliced strawberries (or whatever fruits you prefer). Serve.

more:  desserts 

posted by kleph @ wednesday, june 28, 2006 $formatted_time |

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