A Pavlova (also known as a "Pav"—as in "Mmmm, that was incredible, Mum. May I pleeeease have another piece of Pav?") is a meringue, whipped cream and fruit dessert that was named in honor of the Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova during one of her tours through Australia and New Zealand in the 1920s. There is an ongoing argument between Australia and New Zealand to this day about where the Pav was invented. Being an Aussie, you can guess my view on this.
I grew up eating Pavs. They’re an incredible dessert—they look ridiculously beautiful and complex to make but nothing could be simpler. This recipe comes from my Grandma Kelleher originally, but my sisters came up with the fruit and toasted almond topping addition. One mouthful and you’ll be hooked.
- 8 egg whites (at room temperature)– absolutely no yolk in the egg whites!
- 1 pinch salt
- 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 4 Tbsp. cornstarch
- 2 tsp. white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 pint heavy whipping cream (you may add more if you like)
- 1/3 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- Fresh strawberries (as many as you like! Other berries work well too.)
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds
Set oven at 350°. Place a sheet of wax paper on a cookie tray and draw an 8-inch circle in the center of it.
Beat the egg whites on medium-high speed in a standing mixer for about 3 minutes, or until peaks form.
Switch the mixer to medium speed and slowly whisk in the powdered sugar. When all of the sugar has been added to the egg whites, turn the mixer to high speed in order to fully mix in the sugar. Be careful not to overmix.
Add the cornstarch, then the white wine vinegar, then the vanilla, mixing on low speed to ensure the ingredients are fully incorporated.
Use a spatula to pile the Pav onto the wax paper on the cookie tray. Using the circle as a guide, spread the mixture to make an 8-inch circle with the meringue, slightly higher on the sides than in the middle.
Place the Pav in the oven and IMMEDIATELY turn the oven down to 300°. (If you don’t, all will be lost!)
Bake the Pav for 90 minutes, turn the oven off, prop oven door open slightly (I use a wooden spoon to do this) and let the Pav cool down completely in the oven.
To make the filling:
The pav is best served with whipped cream and fresh fruit. Although it’s extra work to whip fresh cream, it’s absolutely worth the effort.
Cut the tops from the strawberries, half or quarter them (depending on their size), rinse and then mix in a bowl with a little of the powdered sugar. Let them stand in the refrigerator for an hour or so.
Toast the almond slivers carefully in a pan over a medium flame. They burn easily, so be careful! Toast them until they’re a light golden brown, place them in a small bowl and let them cool.
Place the heavy whipping cream into a mixer, add the powdered sugar and vanilla extract and whip until thick and peaks form. Don’t overwhip or you’ll have butter on your hands.
To serve the Pavlova:
Gently peel the paper from the underside of the Pav. Place it on a large serving platter. (Sometimes the meringue crumbles, but don’t worry— the whipped cream will cover any imperfections. Fill the Pav with the whipped cream. Sprinkle the strawberries generously over the whipped cream and top with the toasted almonds.
Eat and weep...and think of Australia!