Once I discovered how these words sound together, Gotta Lova Pavlova, I couldn’t resist, though as a title it walks a fine line between amusing and just goofy. Once you’ve tasted Pavlova, loving it makes sense.
Fruity, frothy and fancy, I’d never heard of Pavlova until I hit the shores of Australia a few years ago. Turns out there’s a lot of passion and patriotism surrounding this dessert – the Aussies and New Zealanders have an ongoing debate about who invented it. New Zealand says it’s theirs and proves it via documentation from 1919; the Aussies claim they created it in 1935 and named it after the Russian ballerina, Pavlova, who had come to dance in 1929. She died a couple of years after that visit and the dessert was homage to her talent and her tutu.
While each country considers Pav its own personal national treasure we get to reap the benefits without the patriotic angst. I found this comment about the ongoing who-invented-it debate at inmamaskitchen which pretty well sums it up:
“Had Pavlova Sunday at rather splendid family get together, fresh raspberries, whipped cream and meringue colluded in a subtle tryst of gastronomic titillation – wonderful and I don’t care who made it up!”
During that Australian visit sister Annie insisted that we have Pavlova. Her family – husband and my niece and nephew – enthusiastically described the whole thing. I think they actually pranced around. They couldn’t wait to introduce us to their Pav. We had no idea what they were talking about, but I began to envision this over the top dessert, the kind I tend to find underwhelming. I’m not a gaudy dessert person and Pavlova sounded way gaudy to me. Too many piles of froth, too much glitz and pink. Just give me some chocolate cake with minimal frosting, I probably thought. I kept my mouth courteously shut and my mind just barely open to the idea.
When I’m wrong about a thing I can be waaaay wrong and this was one of those times.
We were staying at a family hostel in Noosa Head, a couple of blocks from a classic sand & surf beach; sister Annie and the kids made Pavlova for us right there in the hostel’s community kitchen. The Aussies, fellow travelers, were impressed with Annie’s on-the-road culinary prowess and as I recall we shared a few compassionate bites. Sitting in the garden that evening with parrots overhead and a plate of Pavlova on my lap, I discovered there’s good reason to be impassioned about Pavlova, superlatives and prancing around quite the correct way to describe a lavish dessert that’s basically meringue, whipped cream and fresh fruit. The meringue is sweet, crunchy on the outside, marshmallowy on the inside, topped with whipped cream and fresh berries. Summer’s the perfect Pavlova season.
OK, enough. Let’s just say it’s gorgeous and good and here’s how to make it.
This version, Lavender-Pistachio Pavlova, is from Jerry Traunfeld’s Herbfarm Cookbook and has its own PNW/Traunfeld character.
Three steps: the lavender infused whipped cream, the meringue, and the fruit. Then you get creative and assemble. Make the meringue and whipped cream a few hours ahead, assemble at the last moment.
Lavender infused whipped cream:
2 C heavy cream, do not use ultrapasteurized
4 t fresh lavender buds or 2 t dried
1/4 t vanilla bean split and scraped into cream, or 1/2 t vanilla extract
Bring cream just to a boil, add the lavender and vanilla bean, remove from heat, cover and let sit for 30 minutes/ Strain through a sieve, add vanilla extract if not using the bean and refrigerate until well chilled/ Whip with 1/4 C sugar until it forms stiff peaks/ Serve immediately or reserve whipped cream in fridge for up to 2 hours.
Meringue: Individual meringues can be made instead of one large one. Adjust baking time from approximately 1 1/2 – 2 hours, to half that if you make small meringues.
2 t unsalted butter for the parchment paper
1 C unsalted shelled whole pistachios (skip the nuts if you’d prefer)
1 T cornstarch
1 1/2 c superfine sugar
1 T fresh lavender buds, separated and left whole, or 1 1/2 t dried buds, coarsely chopped
6 large egg whites (3/4 C) at room temperature
1/4 t cream of tartar
Preheat oven to 350º. Trace a 10″ circle (or any shape you’d like that’s approximately that size) on a piece of parchment paper. Turn it upside down on a cookie sheet. Lightly butter parchment.
Chop 3/4 C of pistachios and then thoroughly stir together with cornstarch and 1/4 C of the superfine sugar. Add the lavender buds and set aside.
Using an electric mixer beat egg whites and cream of tartar until they form soft peaks/ Gradually beat in the remaining 1 1/4 C sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, taking about 5 minutes to add it all/ Continue beating for 2 more minutes/ Mixture should be extremely stiff/ Carefully fold in the lavender/ pistachio/cornstarch mixture.
Pour whipped meringue out onto the parchment paper, spread it out using a spatula inside the drawn lines/ Depress meringue in the center, fluff it up around the outside edges/ Traunfeld says to keep it shaggy and uneven like a tutu.
Press the reserved whole pistachios all around the outside of the meringue/ Put into the pre-heated oven and immediately reduce heat to 250º/ Bake for 1 1/2 – 2 hours until it’s crisp on the outside and marshmallow-like on the inside/ Remove from oven and allow to cool completely/ If serving same day, cover lightly with plastic wrap/ If serving the next day wrap the shell airtight in plastic wrap and store at room temperature. In my convection oven an hour and twenty minutes was about perfect for time.
Fruit: 4 – 6 cups of mixed in-season fruit. Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, sliced peaches, apricots, plums, sweet cherries. . . mid-winter try kiwi, satsumas, or rehydrated dried fruit like apricots and cherries.
Whip the chilled cream. Presentation: Now have some fun. Fill the center of the meringue shell with the whipped cream, leaving a border of about an inch around the edge/ Informally arrange fruit over the cream/ Can be held in the fridge for up to two hours/ Cut into wedges with a cake knife.
Next time: I might make small individual meringues instead of one large one and use them as needed. I wonder if they’d freeze successfully? I’d like to try making the meringue with less sugar, 1 C instead of 1 1/2 C. I don’t think it will drastically change the structure of the meringue – not sure.
So much for demure dessert, bring on the gaudy and glitz. Pavlova won me over and now I’m on to equally ostentatious and delicious Tiramisu. Pavlova is a party in and of itself. Salute your friends and neighbors, celebrate summer, your birthday, strawberries, whatever . . .
Pavlova is a Mixed Greens reposting from summer 2009.