What is not in doubt is that the dessert was named in honour of the Russian ballet dancer of the 1920’s Anna Pavlova. She toured both countries during her period of fame with both claiming to have created the now famous dish.
Researchers claim that the country that made the original dessert was in fact New Zealand, a hotel in the city of Wellington being given as the first creator of pavlova during the dancer’s 1926 tour.
Professor’s of the culinary art at New Zealand’s University of Otago claim the first recipe for the dish to appear in Australia was not until 1935, with a similar version of the dessert appearing in an Australian magazine in 1929. Australian historian’s dispute the dates in question counter claiming that it first appeared in their country in 1926 and not in New Zealand and that the first meringue dessert in Wellington was not pavlova but simply a meringue dessert with a fruit filling.
Australian claims that the dish was created in a hotel in Perth in Western Australia by a chef dating his creation as being first produced in 1935 was incorrect and that the chef simply added the wrong date to his creation. Further to this claim was the evidence that the dish did not appear in any culinary cookbooks in Australia until at least the 1940’s. The first recorded issue to be found in that country was for a pavlova sweet cake recipe in a 1937 issue of a weekly magazine for women.
Pavlova did appear in a 1926 publication in Australia but this particular dish was not made from meringue and was made from gelatine and far from being white or light in colour it was multi-coloured.
To differentiate pavlova from meringue the egg whites are beaten to a stiff consistency before cornflour is added to give the crisp outer shell and soft centre similar to marshmallow. Together with the cornflour, caster sugar, vanilla essence and a little white vinegar are added before being baked slowly. Once the cooking process is complete the fragile creation should be left in the oven to cool down as it can sink if exposed to cooler air before it has had a chance to return to room temperature.
Pavlova is best stored in an airtight container as it will absorb any moisture in the air and lose the crispness that slow cooking has achieved, the dessert should be decorated shortly before service with whipped cream soft fresh fruit, in particular strawberries, passion fruit and kiwifruit.
The title of the world’s largest pavlova has been broken on at least two occasions with ‘pavzilla’ being created in February 1999 to celebrate the first anniversary of the opening of New Zealand’s National Museum in the city of Wellington and measured in at 45 metres in length. Students from Hawke’s Bay’s Eastern Institute of Technology created their own record breaking ‘pavkong’ in March 2005 which was measured as having a length of 64 metres. Five years later in August 2010 a 50 metre square pavlova with a rugby theme was displayed in Christchurch’s Cathedral to help raise charitable contributions.