This fetching, delicious summer dessert combines the best of two classic desserts, the Peach Melba and Pavlova, both of which were inspired by women of the stage.
Invented in the 1890s by Escoffier in the Savoy Hotel in London, the peach, raspberry sauce and vanilla ice cream confection was created in honour of Australian soprano Dame Nellie Melba.
The Pavlova was invented sometime in the 1920s and named for the Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova. Though the exact origin is a source of heated debate between NZ and Australia, everyone will agree that this meringue dessert - crispy on the outside but soft and mallowy in the inside, then topped with whipped cream and seasonal fruits - is pure heaven.
And one of the best things about this dessert, you can make the components up to a day ahead of time and just assemble for service.
Prepare the baking sheet. On a piece of parchment or silicon paper, trace an 8-inch circle if you're making one large meringue or 8 smaller circles if making individual ones. Place the paper on a rimless baking sheet with the traced outline(s) face down.
In a large, clean mixing bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt until firm peaks form.
While continuing to beat, gradually add the sugar one tablespoon at a time until mixture is firm and satiny in appearance. (If you add the sugar too quickly, you won't be able to incorporate the air needed for a light, fluffy meringue).
Sprinkle on the cornflour, vanilla extract and vinegar and fold gently until just incorporated. (Do not overfold or you will knock out the air and end up with a cracked and deflated meringue).
On the prepared baking sheet, spread the mixture as desired, gently smoothing the sides and tops. (Even better for the individual pavs, make the tops slightly concave so as to hold the cream and fruit better).
Turn the oven down to 275°F, then place the meringue(s) onto the middle rack and bake for around 30 minutes, until the outer crust is slightly golden and crisp.
Turn off the heat and allow meringue to cool in the oven for 3 hours, or even overnight. Once fully cooled, gently peel the meringue off the baking paper, then store in an airtight container until ready to assemble. (Don't worry too much if it's cracked, you'll be covering it with cream and fruit anyway).
For the whipped cream, combine the cream and sugar in a bowl and mix until the cream starts to hold its shape. Store covered in the fridge.
For the raspberry sauce, place all the ingredients into a blender or processor, reserving a couple handfuls of whole raspberries for decoration. Blend until smooth, pass through a sieve, then check for taste – the sauce should be reasonably tart and refreshing as the rest of the dessert is very sweet.
To assemble: place the meringue on a serving plate and spread a 1/2 inch layer of whipped cream on top. Arrange the peaches and raspberries and drizzle with raspberry sauce as desired. If using, garnish with slivered almonds.