Australians and New Zealanders have been arguing for the right to be called the creators of this delicacy for decades, but it seems that the palm should be given to Viennese confectioners
“Fluff, lightness, wind” – this is how the famous choreographer Marius Petipa described the young Anna Pavlova at the viewing at the St. Petersburg Imperial Theater School. Pavlova herself recalled: “I always tried to throw an airy veil of poetry on the dance.” The dessert, named after the legendary ballerina, is also light and airy. Whipped butter cream and fresh berries are added to the crispy meringue, shaped like a snow-white ballet tutu.
The primacy of the invention of the dish was attributed to the inhabitants of Australia, then New Zealand. In these countries far from Europe, the former prima of the Mariinsky Theater, who conquered the Old World, went on a concert tour in the 20s of the last century.
According to one version, for the first time the Pavlova dessert was prepared in a hotel in the New Zealand capital, the city Wellington, however, in the form of a multi-layered jelly – with its barely noticeable swaying, it resembled the movement of a ballet tutu during a dance. According to another version, the Australian chef from the Esplanadein Perth, Bert Saxey prepared the dessert in 1935, when Pavlova was no longer alive. Since then, disputes between countries have not subsided.
The New Zealand professor Helen Leach from the University of Otago has undertaken to establish the truth. She studied 667 recipes from 300 different sources and found that the classic Pavlova recipe was first published in New Zealand in 1929, six years earlier than in Australia. But the search for truth did not stop there.
Some time later, New Zealander Andrew Paul Wood combined his research ardor with the efforts of Australian Annabelle Utrecht. Together they disproved Helen Leach's version, as they found out that before 1926 there were already about 150 versions of the Pavlova dessert, the earliest of which dates back to 1911.
Wood and Utrecht also managed to establish that the Austrian dessert Spanische Windtorte (“Spanish air cake”) made of meringue and whipped cream, known since the 19th century, should be considered the prototype of Pavlova. It has no direct relation to the Spaniards, just the Habsburgs, the ruling dynasty in Austria-Hungary, had a passion for everything Spanish.
From Austria, this dessert is called schaum torte(“foam pie”) migrated to the United States along with the flow of emigrants who conquered the New World in the second half of the 19th century. Here, his recipe has undergone slight changes: corn starch has been added to the dessert. According to the researchers, it was the American company William Duryea, which exported this product to Australia and New Zealand, that introduced local housewives to the Pavlova recipe.
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What should be the perfect Pavlova dessert?
The whole secret is in the meringue, crispy on the outside and soft, viscous on the inside. To do this, it is baked at a low temperature so as not to overdry. Dessert is best served with fresh seasonal berries. In Australia, the most popular option is with strawberries and passion fruit. In Russia in winter, for example, if there are no fresh berries on hand, you can serve Pavlova with a five-minute cold fruit sauce.
How often do Australians eat this dessert?
Constantly and for no particular reason. My compatriots are passionate about a healthy lifestyle, and airy meringue and fresh berries are also useful. In addition, butter cream can always be replaced with sorbet or ice cream.
Where would you recommend trying this dish?
I have not eaten the most delicious Pavlova in Australia and in Singapore. My friend prepared it. This woman was not the chef of a star restaurant, but her meringue was perfect. If we talk about Australia, there is a Chokolait Hub in Melbourne, where they make good Pavlova with Japanese matcha tea or chocolate.
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A decisive role in the popularity of meringue with whipped cream was played by the appearance at the end of the 19th century of the predecessor of the electric mixer – a mechanical “Dover whisk”, which allowed you to quickly whip proteins and cream.
In the southern hemisphere, “Pavlova” has gained wild popularity. It was prepared in rival countries with a slight difference. The Australians preferred the crunchy meringue with strawberries and passion fruit, while the New Zealanders preferred the viscous, marshmallow-like meringue with the kiwi fruit, the symbol of their country.
New Zealanders nowadays express their love for an airy dessert in a peculiar way. First, in 1999, at the National Museum in Wellington, they baked a “Pavlova” with a diameter of 45 meters, by analogy with Godzilla, calling it “Pavzilla”. Then, in 2005, students at the Oriental Institute of Technology in Hawke Bay made a 64 meter Pawkong, comparing the dessert to King Kong.
However, it does not matter where exactly the Pavlova dessert appeared, the main thing is that it has won worldwide recognition: you can try this dish in restaurants from Moscow to Melbourne. Like the famous ballerina, who made world tours more than once, the dessert named after her triumphantly completed its international tour, entering the history of gastronomic art.
< p>For how many servings: 12
Prep time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Calories: 194.2 kcal per 100g
Egg whites – 6 pcs
Powdered Sugar – 500g
Juice of half a lemon
Fresh strawberries or other berries – 150g per serving
< strong>Mint — 3-4 leaves per serving
For Diplomat Cream:
Cream 35% — 500 ml
Milk— 125 ml
Egg yolks —4 pcs.
Sugar– 50 g
1. Separate the whites of six eggs from the yolks. Beat egg whites with a mixer until completely thickened, then add icing sugar and lemon juice at the same time. Continue beating with the mixer at low speed for 5 minutes.
2. Put the whipped proteins (in portions) on a baking sheet. Place in an oven preheated to 150°C, lower the temperature to 80°C and leave for an hour. Ready meringues to get and cool.
3. Preparing the cream. Cut the vanilla pod in half lengthwise, remove the pulp with seeds. Put vanilla and sugar in milk heated to 40 ° C. Beat the yolks of four eggs, then gradually introduce into the milk in a thin stream, stirring constantly with a whisk. Heat the mixture to 80 °C (milk should not boil) and switch off. Cool.
4. Beat cold cream well and combine with custard, mix thoroughly. Cut fresh strawberries into slices. Put the cooled meringues on plates, decorate with Diplomat cream, strawberries and mint leaves.
Photo: Grigory Polyakovsky (х3), Dmitry Kobeza/Alamy/Legion Media
Material published in the magazine “Around the World” No. 9, September 2019, partially updated in February 2023