Early last week, I returned home from work to find two large meringues on my kitchen counter, heavy cream and fresh strawberries in my fridge, along with a voice mail message from my (super sweet) mom. She decided to surprise me with the makings of what would soon be a delicious pavlova. All I had to do was whip the cream, slice the berries, and assemble.
Pavlova consists of one or more meringue layers sandwiched and/or topped with whipped cream and fruit. The dish was created and named in honour of the Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova, who toured Australia and New Zealand in the 1920s. The jury’s still out on whether an Aussie or Kiwi can be credited with the first recipe.
Mom’s been making Pavlova for years. The “never fail meringue” recipe comes from our dear family friend, Barb Wurtele. Mom is partial to the strawberry version, but I also love it with tropical fruit. We’ve even made it with chopped-up Skor bars. It’s delicious, but I think I prefer the fruit versions.
My fifteen-month-old son John loves it too. Last week was his first taste. The poor guy has been teething pretty badly and he hasn’t had much of an appetite. Desperate to get him to eat something, I mashed up a small scoop of the pavlova with some plain yogurt. John ate every last spoonful. I felt sort of guilty about the sugar, but then my Mom reminded me that the meringue has protein (egg whites), fruit (berries) and cream (dairy). Grandma knows best, right?
- 4 large egg whites at room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 1/3 teaspoons vinegar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 1/3 teaspoons water
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream, 35 per cent
- sugar and vanilla to taste (for the whipped cream)
- fresh fruit of your choice
- Preheat oven to 400 F
- Beat egg whites until really stiff. Then add all other meringue ingredients and beat again until stiff.
- Line two baking sheets with lightly greased parchment paper.
- Divide meringue in half and form two nine-inch circles about the same size (one for each cookie sheet).
- Place meringues in the oven and immediately turn off oven. Leave meringues in oven overnight (I suggest that you attach a note to the oven that reads: “do not turn on”).
- In the morning, remove the meringues from oven and loosen from parchment paper. Whip heavy cream until soft and billowy, adding sugar and vanilla to taste. Spread half of the whipped cream onto one disc of meringue, and top with half amount of fresh fruit. Place second meringue on top, spread with remaining whipped cream and fresh fruit. This can be made in the morning for serving at dinner.