Sunday, October 28, 2012

Pavlova War

Most countries go to war because of ethnic tensions, religious preferences, or general foreign policy, but should Australia and New Zealand ever go to war with each other, undoubtedly the war will be brought on by a dessert dispute.

That’s right.  Dessert.

One of the national desserts of both countries is the pavlova.  The pavlova is said to have been invented in honour of Anna Pavlova, a Russian ballet dancer who visited both nations in the 1920’s.  The dispute centres around which of the two countries invented it first, and both sides are sometimes frighteningly passionate about it.  In my experience, those hailing from New Zealand seem to be the most ardent.  Kiwis seem to have a bit of an inferiority complex when it comes to competing with Australia, but that’s probably attributable to Australians always joking about how New Zealanders are all sheep shaggers.  I suppose I’d get a bit touchy too if people constantly proclaimed that me and my countrymen all fuck sheep, but to bring an innocent dessert into the mix just seems wrong to me.  Think of the children!

Recipes date back as far as 1926 in New Zealand, and the first Australian recipe found appears to be from 1929, though an Australian gelatin-based recipe (as opposed to current meringue-based recipe) which bears same name dates back to 1926.  One of the earliest possible sources can be found in the 1926 edition of a New Zealand cookbook, but in an amazing turn of events, the recipe in that book was penned by an Australian writer.  So, in my position, Aussies and Kiwis should just go with that and claim equal responsibility for it and then shut the fuck up and bake me a pavlova because it’s delicious and every minute spent quarrelling over such a trivial matter is a minute wasted and my tummy is now grumbling and goddamnit get back in the kitchen and bake me a cake, bitch!

Do you see Americans and Canadians quarrelling over who first used maple syrup?  No.  Because we’re both far too busy pouring sugary delicious mapleness onto our fluffy pancakes to find the time to argue over something that really doesn’t matter anyway.  Also, we don’t care.  We can share.  Just like we do with hockey and multiculturalism and Justin Bieber.  So there.

My friend Amy makes a delicious homemade pavlova, so we decided it was high time to let me in on how to make one.  Also, I was in need of a blog topic and this one was an easy one to write something up on.  We decided to make it a bit of a cultural exchange, so I made a big plate of my famous macaroni and cheese (Praise Cheesus!) to give a little American treat to the Aussies, and Amy brought over all of the ingredients for a traditional Aussie pavlova including the KitchenAid mixer to mix it with (because lord knows I don’t have the money to afford one of those fancy contraptions.)

Now, recipes seem to call for varied amounts of each ingredient, and I was a bit precarious with the notes (I was running around playing hostess), so I’m not going into proportions here because you can find it online.  But the general idea is as follows:

Step 1:  The Meringue

Beat eat whites with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.  (Hehe, I said “stiff”!)

Then, while still beating, add some caster sugar.  Now the stiff peaks will be glossy.

Add a splash of white wine vinegar, a hint of vanilla extract, and just more than a pinch of corn starch.  The corn starch is the key ingredient here.  Regular meringues have a solid consistency throughout, but pavlova is different.  The corn starch creates a crisp outer shell with a gooey, marshmallowy centre.  I love gooey centres.

Then that’s it.  That’s the whole recipe for the base.  It’s almost easier than buying a pre-made one (especially if you have a fancy KitchenAid mixerer thingy).

You spoon/pipe/pourit in a big clump (or several individual sized clumps) on baking paper.

Stick it in the pre-heated oven and bake it.  Lots of the recipes online say to bake it for 60 – 90 minutes, but we baked ours for about 25 minutes and then turned off the oven and let the pavlova sit in there while the oven cooled.  It needs to cool slowly to set right, so whatever you do, don’t open the oven door for like an hour or two after you turn the oven off.  Be patient.  Just keep drinking while you wait.

Lick the beaters.

Lick your fingers.

Once you take the pavlovas out of the oven, you put them on a nice serving plate.

They should crack a little.  Time to decorate.

Step 2:  The Whipped Cream

In a bowl, whip cream.  Whip it real good.  Also, for added effect, play that song while you are whipping the cream.  You may want to add some icing sugar to the cream.  We didn’t have any, so we added brandy instead.  A legitimate substitute?  Apparently yes.  That was a good call.

When the cream becomes whipped cream, you can spoon it onto the top of the pavlova, and then decorate further with fruit.  We used strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries, but banana is common, as are mango and passionfruit.

It’s not traditional, but maybe add a little chocolate too?  Maybe?  Dani brought some rocky road, so we decorated the plate with that.  Scrumdiddlyumptious!

What never fails to liven up the party?  Pavlova!

Next step:  Smile for the camera!

Then eat!

And for christsake try to contain your food boner!


  1. My mum used to make a rum pavlova. That’s rum in the pav mix, not just the cream on top. Besides the cream, all she put on it was grated chocolate. Alas, she’s not longer with us to make it. I guess I could, but I’m more a savoury person, not so much into desserts. Besides I’d have to search for her recipe (I’m sure I have it somewhere).

  2. I should have mentioned that this was about the yummiest dessert you can imagine.