The Pavlova was created in honor of the Russian ballet dancer Anna Matveyevna Pavlova after she toured Australia and New Zealand in the 1920’s. She was a renowned dancer, lauded for her grace and beauty. During the peak of her popularity many chefs would create desserts in her honor to coincide with her visits to their countries. Not surprisingly, these desserts would generally be light and airy to reflect her dancing style – eg. meringue based desserts, lights cakes and jellies.
The traditional Pavlova is one such dessert. However, there is some uncertainty as to whether it was first created in New Zealand or Australia. Anna Pavlova toured New Zealand in 1926 and Australia in 1929. Some food writers claim that before her 1926 visit, a recipe had been published in New Zealand for a fruit filled meringue pie. A chef in the hotel she had been staying in apparently used this recipe but created the augmented base after being inspired by her ballet tutu. However, in 1935, a hotel chef Herbert Sachse from Western Australia apparently claimed that he created the modern Pavlova after building upon a recipe for a Meringue Cake which he saw in the Women’s Mirror Magazine April 2, 1935 edition. This recipe was submitted by a contributor from New Zealand. It appears though, that Sachse was the one who actually named the new recipe Pavlova after he noted that the dessert was “as light as Pavlova”*. Consequently, the modern day Pavlova is an iconic dessert claimed by both countries and is a national dessert for both.
As its namesake suggests, it is incredibly light. It’s a lovely dessert, particularly on a warm summer day. Today is also Australia Day and to honor this special day, I thought I would make this traditional Australian dessert. Ahhh…a restful day off, a cold drink and a slice of Pavlova….all I need now is to find a nice spot “under the shade of a coolabah tree”* and there’s little else I could ask for.
To make the Pavlova you’ll need:
1 Tbs cornflour
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon vinegar
400ml thickened cream
1 punnet strawberries
1 punnet blueberries.
1/2 cup strawberry jam.
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius.
- Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar and continue beating to a stiff peak. Add the vinegar then mix in the cornflour and vanilla essence.
- Line a cookie sheet with baking paper and pour in the meringue.
- Reduce the oven to 100 degrees and bake the meringue for about 1 hour. Turn off the oven and open the door slightly when the meringue is baked – leave it to cool completely.
- Carefully transfer the cooled meringue onto a serving platter.
- Whip the cream using an electric beater and pour over the cooled meringue base.
- Top with the sliced fruits.
- Heat the jam for a few seconds in a microwave then glaze the fruits with the melted jam.