I have always understood that the pavlova, named after the famous Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, was created by Australian chef Bert Sachse from the Esplanade Hotel in Perth and prepared for her while on tour.
However, like most great things which are considered uniquely and indisputably Australian, there’s often a foreign element. Hey, even Vegemite and the Australian Women’s Weekly are foreign owned. So it also appears that the Kiwis (AKA New Zealanders) are trying to take claim to our pav. Is nothing sacred?!! That said, a pav just isn’t a pav without kiwi fruit on top so I reluctantly got to give the kiwis a bit of credit.
This recipe comes from Margaret Fulton who, now aged in her 90s, has to be considered “The Grandmother of Australian Cooking”. I grew up cooking from her cookbooks as a child and even though we have never met, she feels like some kind of surrogate cooking Supergran and I’m sure most Australian women would feel much the same. So much more than a name, she’s part of the family, albeit on the shelf.
This pavlova is my signature dish. It is relatively simple but I always receive gushing praise and have been lauded as the “Pavlova Queen”. With its crisp crunchy crust and soft marshmallow interior, it’s amazing and I find so many people truly love pavlova and nothing compares to the classic home made version. Somehow, it seems to make everybody deliriously happy.
6 egg whites at room temperature
Pinch of salt
2 cups caster sugar
1.5 teas vanilla
1.5 teas vinegar
- Pre-heat oven. There is quite a difference in settings depending on whether you are baking the pavlova in a gas or electric oven. If you are using electric, pre=heat the oven to a slow 150° C (300°F). If you are using gas, preheat it to a very hot 230°C (450°F).
- Grease tray. I use a pizza tray covered in foil and spray it with canola.
- Separate egg whites into glasses and transfer each egg white to the main bowl in case a bit of yolk slips through the net. You don’t want to waste the lot!
- Beat egg whites at high speed until soft peaks form.
- Add sugar one tablespoon at a time beating well after each addition.
- Stop beating after all the sugar has been incorporated.
- Fold in vanilla and vinegar.
- Pile mixture onto the tray and swirl it around creating attractive curls.
- Cooking instructions vary depending on what type of oven you have. If using an electric oven, put the pavlova in and bake for 45 minutes and then turn the oven off and leave it in there for 1 hour. If using a gas oven, turn heat to the lowest temperature. Put the pavlova in and bake 1.5 hours or until crisp on top and a pale straw colour.
- When pavlova is cooked, remove from the oven and cool completely.
- Now you essentially drown the pavlova in cream. You can either buy the tubs of very thick cream which you can pour straight onto the pavlova or you can whip some cream up yourself. We always add a bit of icing sugar and vanilla to our whipped cream. Just to make the pavlova healthy, despite all that sugar and cream.
- Top the cream with fresh fruit which is typically slices of kiwi fruit , banana and strawberries along with some passion fruit. My sister-in-law used frozen raspberries, defrosted of course, and these went very well with it as well. She actually put the raspberries underneath the cream and that looked very good.
Pavlova is best made the day before and it’s not something you can easily squeeze into the oven in between cooking other things what with juggling oven temperatures and it needing a slow oven. I have been making this pavlova for many years and haven’t had a flop until recently and I think that’s from trying to cook it straight after having the oven hot for something else.
Enjoy and just remember that when you serve the pavlova with fruit, that automatically makes it healthy cancelling out all the other stuff.