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.

pavlova unbaked

RECIPE (makes 1 dozen)

for pavlova:
1 cup superfine granulated sugar (you can substitute coconut sugar here as well)
1 Tbsp cornstarch
3 large egg whites
3 Tbsp cold water
1 tsp white vinegar
for topping:
fresh berries
2 – 5.4 oz cans coconut cream, whipped (or 1 pint whipped cream!)
coconut cream
Heat oven to 300 degrees. Combine sugar and cornstarch in a bowl and gently mix. This prevents cornstarch from clumping later on. Set aside.
In a bowl, or a stand mixer, beat whites at a medium speed with a pinch of salt until the whites hold soft peaks. Add the water to this mixture, and beat again until the whites hold soft peaks (the water will loosen the meringue at first).
Increase the speed to medium high, and slowly begin to stream the sugar into the egg whites. Once all of the sugar has been added, mix for 1-2 more minutes to fully incorporate sugar.
Add vinegar, and beat egg whites and sugar on high speed until the egg whites are thick, glossy, and can hold stiff peaks. This will take 5-7 minutes.
On a parchment paper (or silpat)-lined sheet pan, use two large spoons to transfer globs of meringue onto the sheet pan. When transferring, leave about a 1/2 inch space between each meringue, and gently press down and swirl the middle of each meringue.
Bake the meringues for about 45 minutes, or until the shell is hard. Remove from oven and cool.
In the meantime, by hand or by mixer, whip the coconut cream until it holds a semi-firm shape. Set aside.
When ready to serve, crack the middle with the back of a spoon and add a dollop of coconut cream and top with the berries of your choice. Enjoy!