As you know, I was raised in Wichita Falls, Texas. There, my mom was a very active member of our community, frequently throwing dinner parties and hosting guests. Usually, for dessert she would roll out this giant meringue that was the size of a frisbee, smothered in warm fudge sauce and ice cream. I later learned that it served over 10 guests! I would spend most of the dinner party sneaking surreptitious glances into the kitchen, just waiting for this divine confection to make an appearance. Back in the day, she referred to it as just a meringue, not as the dressed-up name we know it as today: the Pavlova. The difference between a meringue and a pavlova? Meringues are crispy all the way through, and pavlovas have a chewy center, thanks to the addition of cornstarch and vinegar!
Commonly mistaken as Australian in origin, the Pavlova was named after the Russian ballerina named, you guessed it, Anna Pavlova. The country was so taken with her dancing after a 1920’s tour that a hotel chef from Wellington, New Zealand named this meringue delight after her. For years, Aussies and Kiwis fought for rights to this dessert, but recently it had been concluded that New Zealand was in fact the original creator. Nevertheless, this dish is served at almost every holiday in both countries.
Now when I was a dancer, new to NYC, I never had a pastry named after me (occasionally, I did have men fighting for me) but I loved to make this dessert when I was homesick for my mom. To make it a little healthier for my lifestyle, I sadly opted out of the creamy fudge and heavy whipped cream, going for airy coconut cream and berries instead. You can find coconut cream in the canned food section at the grocery store! I also made the portions smaller so that I would eat less while still enjoying a childhood favorite.
RECIPE (makes 1 dozen)