Until earlier this year, I had no idea what a pavlova was. I was at a house cooking for the Real Food Summit and someone mentioned that we needed to make sure there was enough oven space for a pavlova. It didn’t look like much, and when I asked what it was, it sounded like little more than a glorified meringue. Which, I guess, it kind of is, when you look at the ingredient list. But while meringues can be grossly chalky, the pavlova is marshmallowy, fluffy sponges, with a crisp outer crust. Made right, with fresh fruit and fresh whipped cream, it tastes like an early summer dream.
The Pavlova was named after a Russian ballerina and was apparently first made in New Zealand. This version, made with raspberries, is the most popular pavlova topping in the United Kingdom. South of the equator, they favor kiwi and banana toppings. Because my friend and I were making this for the first time, we were cautious with our pavlova. Like the directions suggested, we baked it at a low temperature for about an hour and a half, but neither of us knew what the proper texture of a pavlova was supposed to be. I read a little bit about it online and learned that they’re supposed to have lightly crisp exteriors with a fluffy, spongy cake underneath. After the allotted baking time was up, I checked on the pavlova, but the crust wasn’t crusty as much as it was waxy and not crisp to the touch. So I did a risky thing and put the oven on a low broil for about three minutes. I kept an eye on it the whole time, of course, to make sure it wouldn’t go up in flames.
Not only did the dessert taste great, it was beautiful and reminded me of the garden party I had attended the night before.