A Peachy, 5-Ingredient Take on Pavlova

August 28, 2018

A Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big, BIG everything else: flavor, ideas, wow factor. Psst: We don't count water, salt, pepper, and certain fats (say, olive oil to dress greens or sauté onions), since we're guessing you have those covered. Today, we're giving juicy, ripe peaches the pavlova treatment.

The first time I ever ate pavlova, I was on a bus somewhere in Scotland. It was individual-sized, smothered in whipped cream, and drenched in raspberry sauce. I learned two big lessons that day: one, that pavlova is the dreamiest dessert, ever. And two, that it shouldn’t be eaten on the road.

In spite of where we met, pavlova isn’t Scottish. Many say it hails from Australia or New Zealand—depending on whether you ask someone from, well, Australia or New Zealand. But recent research indicates it originated in Germany, then traveled to America where it evolved into the dish we know today.

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In any case, its name is a nod to the world-class Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. So they say, the meringue’s poofiness and cream’s swooshiness resemble her tutu. Or, the whole thing is as light and delicate as she was on stage.

Photo by Julia Gartland

All of this sounds super elegant and impressive and, yeah, intimidating. Like professional ballet, pavlova must be difficult, right? Nope. If you can turn on a standing mixer, you can make pavlova. And we both know you can turn on a standing mixer. Don’t pretend you can’t!

Pavlova is loads more popular in Australia and New Zealand than it is in America. But here at NYC-based Food52, we have quiiiiiite a soft spot for the recipe. We love peanut butter pavlova, berries and cream pavlova, even slabified pavlova.

And, of course, this peaches and cream pavlova. Here’s how it comes together:

Photo by Julia Gartland

The Meringue

At its most basic, meringue is egg whites and sugar. Yet you’d be hard-pressed to find a recipe with just egg whites and sugar. Many recipes add lemon juice or vinegar and cornstarch. Others opt for cream of tartar. All of these serve the same purpose: meringue insurance. They make the egg white–sugar foam more stable and secure, less likely to let you down and make you sad.

Of course, this being Big Little Recipes, I was determined to figure out a just-whites-and-sugar meringue. But my tests proved unreliable to the point that I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. Barely a splash of lemon juice made all the difference. What’s more, if your fruit syrup could use a little extra juiciness or brightness, you can use the lemon for that, too.

The Cream

When I was little, I had a habit of drinking those half-and-half shots—like those ones for coffee—straight. In retrospect, this was disgusting, but my great-grandmother thought it was “adorable” and encouraged me, shamelessly, which is one of the reasons we got along so well for the few years that our lives crossed paths. Anyway, it’s not hard to figure out where my affinity for unadorned cream came from. A lot of whipped cream recipes call for vanilla extract and powdered sugar. Some even go the opposite direction and add crème fraîche or yogurt. This version adds nothing. You just whip the cream to soft peaks and let it speak for itself. There’s enough sweetness in the meringue and, anyway, the real star here is…

Photo by Julia Gartland

The Fruit

Hi there, peaches. These rosy-cheeked, juicy-fleshed, summery beauties are worth showing off. And pavlova is the way to do it. In fact, pavlova is the way to show off any in-season fruit. Just like their pale color, the meringue and cream’s flavors and textures are the perfect backdrop. All you need to do is macerate the fruit in sugar and let it be its glorious self. I add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper for some pop and zing (that's its spicy little secret). It sounds curious, even suspicious, but once you do it with one fruit, you won’t be able to stop.

What’s your favorite way to make pavlova? Share the details in the comments!

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  • Elizabeth
  • Emma Laperruque
    Emma Laperruque
Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.


Elizabeth December 15, 2018
I've become somewhat obsessed with pavlova this past year. Did one this summer with peach/nectarine/blueberry and toasted almond meringue.....holy yum. But I've also become obsessed with simple simple simple and, while pavlova is not a terribly complicated bit of heaven from the outset, I love that you're highlighting it in big little recipes because I think that in and of itself makes it less intimidating for people.
Emma L. December 17, 2018
Thanks, Elizabeth! I'm pretty obsessed with pavlova, too...and always amazed by how little work it is, for such a big reward.