This all started with a ballerina. Well, it turns out, not exactly—but Australia and New Zealand would have you think otherwise. The fight has stretched on for decades, each country confident in its status as victor. The reason for this Down Under duel?
Enter the pavlova, a light, airy, dramatic dessert said to be inspired by world-famous Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. She toured both Australia and New Zealand in 1926, and whole nations were entranced—so much so that they devised a crisp, billowy meringue dessert that was as light and elegant as the ballerina’s ethereal performances. Australia claims that a chef in Perth first invented the pavlova, while New Zealand insists that they were the first to publish a recipe for it. Each country has embraced the pavlova as part of their national culture, paying no mind to research that indicates the meringue dessert actually originated in Germany and migrated to America long before Pavlova ever took the stage on her world tour.
Origin-story squabbles aside, the pavlova really delivers in the drama department. Clouds of meringue set into firm swoops and peaks that cradle tangy pools of lemon curd. Sweet whipped cream and bright red fruit lend textural and color contrast. It’s the perfect dessert to place in front of a guest with a flourish. With holiday feasts come all of the people we love most in the world. May this pavlova be the only drama at your table.
Pavlova with Lemon Curd and Red Fruit
For the Meringues
1¼ cups sugar
6 egg whites
(reserve 3 yolks for lemon curd)
Pinch of cream of tartar
1 tsp. white vinegar
½ tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract
For the Curd
2/3 cup sugar
1 Tbs. cornstarch
1/8 tsp. salt
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
4 Tbs. unsalted butter
3 large egg yolks
2 tsp. grated lemon zest
Fresh whipped cream
1 cup raspberries
1 cup pomegranate arils
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Scatter sugar in a shallow baking dish and bake 10 minutes. Meanwhile, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat egg whites, cream of tartar, and vinegar until foamy.
2. Remove sugar from oven and decrease temperature to 200°F. With the mixer running, gradually stream sugar into egg whites. Add salt and vanilla; beat until very stiff peaks form and meringue is glossy.
3. Scoop large spoonfuls of meringue onto 2 parchment-lined baking sheets to make 12 mounds. Make a slight indentation in the center of each mound with the back of the spoon, swirling out to create 3”-diameter rounds.
4. Bake meringues until dry and firm, about 2 hours and 15 minutes. Turn off oven and use a wooden spoon to prop door ajar. Let meringues cool completely in oven before removing. (Meringues can be made a day ahead and stored in an airtight container.)
5. Meanwhile, stir together 2/3 cup sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a heavy saucepan, then add lemon juice and butter. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, whisking, then continue to simmer, whisking constantly, 1 minute. Lightly beat yolks in a small bowl and whisk in ¼ cup of the lemon mixture, then whisk back into remaining lemon mixture in saucepan. Reduce heat to low and cook, whisking constantly, until curd is thickened, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and stir in zest. Cover the surface with plastic wrap and chill until cool, about 1 ½ hours.
6. To assemble pavlovas, top each meringue with a small spoonful of lemon curd. Garnish with fresh raspberries and pomegranate arils. Serve with whipped cream.