As the daughter and daughter-in-law of Dutch immigrants, I know a thing or two about sweet treats. Speculaas cookies, boterkoek, oliebollen – the Dutch certainly are passionate about sweet indulgences. But it’s the Australian on my mother’s side that’s responsible for my favourite dessert. I’m talking, of course, about Pavlova – a traditional, Australian dessert consisting of a meringue base topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit.
For me, Pavlova conjures up childhood memories of my mother whipping egg whites into glossy, polished peaks, then swirling the batter into a perfect circle on a thick piece of paper cut from a brown paper bag. Popped into the oven at a low temp for about an hour, then cooled and topped with whipped cream, passion fruit, kiwi, strawberries… whatever was in season.
After immigrating to Canada in the 1960s, my mom found herself surrounded mostly by Dutch in-laws on my dad’s side. While she certainly embraced Dutch traditions (she learned to make some of the best stroopwafels I’ve ever had), Pavlova remained for her a unique and easy crowd-pleaser. Jaws tended to drop when she placed the dish on the table, a fragile, cloud-like, crisp meringue shell piled high with cream, passion fruit, strawberries and kiwis.
It’s easy to be intimidated by the thought of making Pavlova, but I assure you it isn’t as hard as it looks. In fact, it’s become my go-to dessert when I need to impress, a surprisingly easy dessert that seems to suit everyone, even the gluten-free guest at your table.