Weekend Cooking: Pavlova

While perusing Table of Contents, a cookbook filled with recipes and anecdotes from authors,  I became fixated on one of Sara Gruen’s (Water for Elephants, 2007) contributions:  Merran Neville’s Pavlova.  From the ingredients, I deduced Pavlova was a dessert but beyond that, I was mystified.

After a bit of research, I learned that Pavlova is a meringue-based dessert that was created in the 1920s to honor Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova while she toured either Australia or New Zealand.  I decided to attempt this recipe in conjunction with Beth Fish Reads’s Weekend Cooking Challenge.

Anna Pavlova

Anthony and I have never really eaten meringue–not the cookies, nor atop a quivering slice of lemon meringue pie–so this was going to be something new at Chez Book, Line, and Sinker.  We were cautiously optimistic about the outcome and our reactions.

First I rounded up the ingredients...

I had everything in the house except the raspberries and Apple Cider vinegar.  The directions call for using a mixer with the whisk attachment, but I couldn’t summon the energy to go to the basement for my Kitchen Aid.  A hand mixer with regular beaters worked just fine.

Egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar, and a dash of salt make for shiny and smooth peaks.

After folding in additional sugar, vanilla, cornstarch, and cider vinegar, I piled the mixture on to a baking sheet lined with parchment.  The recipe called for an 8-inch mound, but I eyeballed it.

A mountain of meringue!

After baking for a bit more than an hour at a low heat, the Pavlova emerged from the oven with a toast shell that started to crack almost instantly.  Fear not, intrepid reader (and baker!), this is expected.

The baked Pavlova, resting before I removed it to a wire cooling rack.

After it cooled completely, I made some whipped cream with sugar and vanilla and sliced into the Pavlova.  If we were having a party, I would have covered the top with cream but since it’s just the two of us, I didn’t want the leftovers to get soggy.  Here’s the Pavlova after I sliced it.

I didn't invert the Pavlova on a cooling rack as the recipe directed. I didn't have two, so I just let it cool. I think inverting it would have prevented the 'tenting' of the meringue layer by compressing it into the cakey layer.

I garnished the Pavlova with a Matterhorn of whipped cream and fresh raspberries.

Honestly, this Pavlova was sublime. Airy and delicious.

Anthony and I were floored by this Pavlova.  It was airy and crispy on the outside, and angel-foodcake-like on the inside.  I can’t imagine that this is high in calories or fat–it’s basically egg whites, sugar, and dashes of a few other things.  Only the whipped cream adds fat and it can be controlled.  We’ve never had anything like this and plan to enjoy Pavlova again soon with friends and family.  Ethereal!

Merran Neville’s Pavlova

adapted from Sara Gruen’s submission in Table of Contents by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp

For the Pavlova

  • 4 large egg whites
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 cup sugar, divided in half
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 285F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Use a mixer to beat egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar. Beat until still, not dry. (I used a hand mixer for 3 minutes.)
  3. Beat in 1/2 cup sugar until mixture is thick and holds shiny peaks.
  4. Mix in cornstarch with remaining 1/2 cup of sugar.  Fold gently with spatula.
  5. Add cider vinegar and vanilla extract, folding them in gently to egg mixture until just mixed.
  6. Pile the mixture in an 8-inch mound on the baking sheet.  Bake for one hour, until crust is firm and toasted.
  7. Let it cool on a wire rack and then invert it. (I skipped the inverting because I didn’t want to smoosh the top of my meringue mountain.)

For the Topping

  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or Gran Marnier
  • Ripe berries (I used raspberries)
  1. Whip the cream until thick and then fold in sugar and vanilla or liqueur.  (I accidentally added my sugar and vanilla at the onset and didn’t have any problems.)
  2. Spread the whipped cream on the Pavlova and pile the berries on top.
  3. Enjoy!

20 Comments

  • At 2011.03.06 20:45, Jenners said:

    I can see the inspiration for the name! Wonderful! And I’m impressed … I think these things are supposed to be hard to get right and yours looks wonderful.
    Jenners´s last blog post ..Reviews- Complications- Strangers At The Feast and Backseat Saints

    • At 2011.03.06 20:54, bermudaonion (Kathy) said:

      Wow, what a unique dessert and it doesn’t look all that difficult!

      • At 2011.03.06 20:57, Dishy said:

        How LOVELY! No wonder you were enchanted by it – it looks just like a cloud. I’ve never made a pavlova before. You’ve inspired me. Thanks Nat!!
        Dishy´s last blog post ..Crumb-Topped Mango Coconut Muffins

        • At 2011.03.06 21:15, rhapsodyinbooks said:

          I’m not big on meringue but I love Pavlova’s dress! Wouldn’t that be fun to wear?!!

          • At 2011.03.06 21:34, Beth F said:

            I love meringue!! And pavlova is wonderful with any fresh fruit. So nice for the summer. Yummmmmm.
            Beth F´s last blog post ..Weekend Cooking- Review- Knopf Cooks American

            • At 2011.03.06 22:07, Steph said:

              Tony and I made a pavlova a few summers ago and it was really delicious… it did collapse a bit, but that didn’t matter as it was so yummy. I feel like it’s such a wonderful summer dessert! Yours is really beautiful and you should be so pleased that it stayed so fluffy!

              • At 2011.03.07 00:00, Lisa said:

                Thirty years ago and Australian family moved in next door to my parents while he studied at the University for a year. They introduced us to a lot about Australia not the least of which was Pavlova. We have it often for special occasions and use all kinds of fresh fruit with it. Sounds so good, I just may have to make up a special occasion this week!
                Lisa´s last blog post ..Fairy Tale Fridays – The Lambkin and The Little Fish

                • At 2011.03.07 08:14, vivienne said:

                  Meringues are very low fat as I eat them as part of my diet. It gives me the sugary fix without the calories. Your pavlova looks amazing. I am very impressed.
                  vivienne´s last blog post ..The Swan Kingdom by Zoe Marriott

                  • At 2011.03.07 11:04, Kath Liu said:

                    Fantastic!! This dessert is a good natured point of contention between us Kiwis and the Australians but we both agree it’s a fantastic bite on a hot summer’s day… or any other day of the year for that matter. And we’re ALWAYS excited to see people outside of the downunder region eating it!
                    Kath Liu´s last blog post ..Sunday Salon- Reading roundup

                    • At 2011.03.07 14:02, Kathleen said:

                      This looks and sounds lovely.
                      Kathleen´s last blog post ..This and That

                      • At 2011.03.07 14:25, stephanie said:

                        Wow Nat, becoming domestic?

                        • At 2011.03.09 07:55, Natalie said:

                          No threat of that happening, I assure you. 🙂

                        • At 2011.03.08 15:50, Care said:

                          Wonderful! (But I am still a bit shocked that you say that you had never ever really eaten meringue before. wow – I cannot resist lemon meringue pie.)
                          Care´s last blog post ..★ Starrify ☆

                          • At 2011.03.08 17:34, Meg said:

                            Ooh, I’m drooling! Just drooling. I love meringue and concocted my first lemon meringue pie in honor of Spencer’s birthday last year (it’s his favorite). Looks like I have another cool thing to add to my “to be baked” list!
                            Meg´s last blog post ..My life in glasses — or lack thereof

                            • At 2011.03.13 18:06, Christy said:

                              That looks so lovely and scrumptious! Love the matching picture of the ballerina for whom the dessert is named.
                              Christy´s last blog post ..The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye by A S Byatt

                              • At 2011.03.14 01:42, Jess - A Book Hoarder said:

                                This looks like an amazing light summer dessert. I just bought cream of tarter for the first time in my life to make some Irish Soda Bread for the early St. Patrick’s Day dinner I made tonight and I bought Driscoll’s raspberries for the green cheesecake I made so I actually have all the ingredients in my house right now….well except that we already ate the raspberries so that wouldn’t work but I’m still close so I can’t wait to try this (this is the longest sentence ever!).

                                • At 2011.03.14 05:46, Marg said:

                                  I am so impressed given that you have never made it before or eaten it before!

                                  It’s a pretty common dessert here in Australia, and in my time I have had some average pavlovas, but a good one is just divine! One of my family members makes a pavlova roll where you put it on the baking paper in a thin layer and then once it is cook you layer it with cream and strawberries, and then roll it up like a roulade! Yum!
                                  Marg´s last blog post ..Upcoming release- Calebs Crossing by Geraldine Brooks includes giveaway

                                  • At 2011.03.14 15:34, Valerie said:

                                    When I have a little time (ha!) I’ll have to try this — I think my daughter would especially appreciate it, being a ballet dancer herself! ‘ve heard of this dessert but never really thought of trying to make it.
                                    Valerie´s last blog post ..The Cairo Trilogy- Part III – “Sugar Street” by Naguib Mahfouz

                                    • […] for suitable snippets for my next Brisbane Courier Mail books column, I stumbled across this recipe for pavlova on the Book, Line & Sinker book-review site. I didn’t expect to see an antipoedean […]

                                      • At 2011.03.22 12:06, Lynette Benton said:

                                        This desert seems so yummy. It’s one of the reasons I *hate* being allergic to eggs! I’ve gotta hold out for a non-egg meringue.

                                        Lynette’s last blog
                                        Lynette Benton´s last blog post ..Do You Shy Away from Writing Classes

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