photo by farm4
 Photo Credit: photo by farm4

“To follow, without halt, one aim: There’s the secret of success.” Anna Pavlova (1881-1931)

It seems that  Australians and New Zealanders have taken this famous quote by Anna Pavlova the Russian ballerina to heart when placing claim on some popular Southern Hemisphere icons.  Debate has been raging over the national identity of horses, entertainers, actors and sporting identities for years, with one hot topic that has been top of the debating list-  the famous Pavlova dessert named in honor of the “petite le sauvage” dancer.

Even the New Zealand prime minister John Key has got in on the act, asking Australian’s to keep there hands off our Pavlova!

So what is a Pavlova, and what about it gets so many “Aussies and kiwi’s”  hot under the collar?

A Pavlova is a meringue like dessert consisting of egg whites and loads of sugar, whisked up until  very stiff and then baked in the oven on  a low heat to result in cake that has a crunchy shell with a moist interior.  Sounds simple and delicious? Well trust Trans Tasman rivalry to complicate the issue with ownership and bragging rights.

Anna Pavlova was a popular ballerina who toured the world extensively with the Russian ballet. At a time when touring dance companies were rare, the Russian ballet and more importantly Anna Pavlovas portrayal of “the Dying Swan” in Swan lake captured the hearts and minds of people the world over.

None more so than the reported account of one hotel Chef in 1929  in  Wellington, New Zealand  who was so inspired by the touring ballerina that he invented a dish with pillowy clouds of meringue to mimic her tutu and kiwifruit slices to copy the green roses that were interwoven into her costume. The pavlova is born…or is it?

Some six years later in 1935, a hotel chef in Perth Australia has staked claim to the famous sweet treat, hence creating the contrevorsy that lingers on to this day.

After some exhaustive research- (and this is before I have stepped into the kitchen to research the taste!) I have uncovered a few home truths that should set the record straight once and for all.

Pavlova, as well as Phar LapCrowded House and Russel Crowe all  have there roots firmly planted in New Zealand soil despite Australians ferocious claims that they are “true blue” waltzing Matilda’s.

Pavlovas recipes have been found in New Zealand cookbooks as early as 1929 with the most convincing being a recipe found published in 1933 in the “Rangiora Mothers cookery book” some 3 years prior to the Australian claim to fame.

So it seems the New Zealand prime minister John Keys was on to something when he so politely told the Aussies to “bugger off”  and the humble Pavlova, all chewy and white can rest assured in the arms of the loving kiwis. My being a New Zealander now living in Australia would have absolutely nothing to do with my approval of these facts… of course.

Now for the recipe, adapted from the most famous of New Zealand Cookbooks- the icon that is The Edmonds Cookbook. Out of respect for dear Edmonds, I have adapted it only because my copy of the Edmonds cookbook belonged to Grandmother Lynn which dates back to the 1950’s, and recipe innovation has moved on some since those glorious days.

This one’s for you Nana!

Pavlova- Kiwi Style.

Firstly you need to preheat your oven 120C. The oven needs to be low as the secret to making a damn good Pavlova lies in the fact that the egg whites in the pavlova dry out and set rather than bake.

Your best to use a kitchen mixer for preparing this dessert as there is a lot of whisking involved! So into the bowl of your kitchen mixer drop 6 egg whites and a pinch of salt and whisk until soft peaks form.

Continue with the whisking and gradually add in 270gms of caster sugar a tablespoon at a time which will allow enough energy for the sugar to dissolve.  The whisking will be complete when the mixture is glossy and shiny and no evidence of sugar is visible.

Remove the bowl from the mixing unit and carefully fold in 1 teaspoon of white vinegar, 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract or paste and 2 teaspoons of cornflour.

On to a baking paper lined oven tray, pile the luscious pavlova cloud in the shape of a cake,  either whipping up the peaks to create a dramatic effect or flattening into a round for a more traditonal pavlova look.

Bake in that nice slow oven for 1 to 1-1/2 hours. You will know when it’s done by  lightly tapping the top of the pavlova which should be hard. Turn the oven off and leaving the door slightly ajar leave the pavlova to cool completely.

Dress the pavlova with lashings of freshly whipped sweetened cream and slices of kiwifruit for the traditional fare or use any combination of fresh fruit such as strawberries, passion fruit, raspberries or banana.

An undressed pavlova will keep demurely in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

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  1. Olivier Sanchez said…

    Hey Bridget

    Big fan of your recipes and tips… have tried this pavlova recipe a few times now (actually 5 times!) and can’t seem to get it right.

    My problem is that we’ve just moved to a new place with a gas oven that has a minimum setting of 150degrees celsius. Every time I try the recipe, the pavlova sinks to about 3-4cm height after about an hour. I’ve tried to look elsewhere with tips, but most recipes are intended for electric and/or lower temperature ovens. I was hoping you’d be able to suggest a tweak so it would stop sinking and I’d have a nice big pav?

    By the way, this recipe is still pretty tasty!


  2. Bridget said…

    Hey Olivier!

    Great to hear you are enjoying the recipes!

    Wish I had an easy answer for you, but unfortunalty with Pavlova, a low slow oven is one of the key factors to getting this right.

    You could try leaving the door open a jar with a heavy wooden spoon wedged in it, but then maintaining the correct oven temp will be difficult.

    Other than that.. how well do you know your neighbors..??? : )

    Good luck and let me know what you end up doing. all the best!!!

    Bridge x

  3. Brandy said…

    love the history..

    I am going to try this recipe right now,I am not too sure about corn flour but I would never know if I do not try,I have done pavalova before and it was really good with no corn flour.

    So people today will be the day to set the final touch to my pavalova,,,,corn flour or not.

    thanks heaps for the recipe.

    • Bridget said…

      thank you Brandy 😉

      Please feel free to make the pavlova to how you like it best. The corn flour is simply another option for you if it doesn’t work out.

      All the best,

  4. 95Claudio said…

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    Your blog should go viral. You need initial traffic only.
    How to get it? Search for: Mertiso’s tips go viral

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