Named after Anna Pavlova, the legendary, lithesome Russian ballerina who famously toured through the antipodes, this beloved Australian and New Zealander dessert features a lighter-than-air shell of meringue. As to which country invented it, that’s something the two have tussled over for almost a century, but there’s no disputing that its crisp exterior and marshmallowy interior are irresistible.
A few things help to accomplish this dual texture: One is beating the egg whites to soft meringue for an airier texture; the second is adding a splash of vinegar or lemon juice to the whipped meringue, which helps it to form a crust while keeping the middle soft and chewy. Finally, baking it low and slow facilitates those contrasting textures.
Traditionally, pavlovas are topped with whipped cream and fresh berries, certainly a winning combination. But one of the great things about this dessert is its versatility. We’ve found that slightly acidic ingredients like rhubarb or apricots make a lovely contrast to the sweet meringue. And a not-too-sweet mint cream paired with bittersweet chocolate makes a refreshing topping.
Feel free to experiment with your own favorite flavors and whatever fruits are in season because meringue is a perfect canvas to express your creativity. Whatever you choose, a pavlova is sure to lift up any meal’s final act.