On a recent trip to New Zealand, our family became obsessed with the Kiwi's national dessert -- a meringue-like shell topped with whipped cream and fruit, known as pavlova. Others may trek halfway around the globe to take the "Lord of the Rings" tour, sample Pinot Noirs or hike the Routeburn Track. Not us. Given the choice between jumping 43 meters off the Kawarau Bridge -- the world's first bungee-jumping site -- or sitting in a cafe sipping flat whites (a latte with less foam) while eating the addictive confection, we pick the "pav."
Named for Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova -- who toured Down Under in the 1920s -- the dessert's history has been in dispute for decades. Both New Zealand and Australia claim ownership, and we heard various explanations of the name: It's meant to evoke the ballerina's tutu, or perhaps was created to satisfy the dancer's dainty appetite.
(Mark Finkenstaedt For The Washington Post)
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We sampled pav for the first time in Te Anau, gateway to the famed Milford Sound. After a day of "tramping," we settled in at the Olive Tree Cafe. My husband's entree -- a bizarre combination of chicken, melted brie, bananas and blueberry sauce -- was the topic of conversation, until the pav arrived.
You never forget your first time. In our inexperienced opinions, this one was the perfect combination: crunchy on the outside and marshmallowy on the inside. Its only drawback: An accompaniment that was the equivalent of fruit cocktail.
Sticky Fingers Bar in Christchurch won accolades from our group for its version named "Love Handles." Without a reservation, we settled for "take-away." Our taste test took place in Cathedral Square on New Year's Eve. As New Zealand's own The Bubblemen performed, "Brown Eyed Girl," and the clock inched toward midnight, we ate pav from a Styrofoam container. Could life be any sweeter?
Once back home, we sought to recreate that tasty experience. Bryon Dorrian, chef to the ambassador of New Zealand, kindly volunteered to teach me to make the perfect pavlova. His recipe, featured above, brings an unforgettable taste of Middle Earth to the new world.
nonstick cooking spray for baking sheet
6 large egg whites (at room temperature)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon white vinegar