Pavlova is a crisp, marshmallow-like meringue dessert, and much like its inspiration and namesake, Russian prima ballerina, Anna Pavlova, it is a product of hard work and a balance between a delicate aesthetic and a strong structure. Although a finicky and, at times, challenging recipe, we have all the moves to help you deftly navigate the common mistakes people encounter when making this Australian/New Zealander dessert.
First Position: When creating Pavlova, it's important to set the stage. And, that starts with a squeaky clean mixing bowl. When separating out the whites, a single drop of yolk will bring your meringue down like a house of cards. No trace remnants of grease or fat can remain inside your mixing bowl. If it does, whipping will be inhibited, and you won't achieve proper peaks -- leaving you with a flat and fallen meringue.
Second Position: As in ballet, every moment needs precision, and this dessert calls for no less! So, no matter how good you think you may be at eyeballing your measurements, exactly weighing them out will guarantee a perfectly choreographed performance.
Third Position: Like the lift in performance, the transition from moving a prima ballerina to one side of the stage to another requires a delicate touch. The same goes for the transition from the mixing bowl to your baking sheet. We recommend a ginger handling of the meringue so as not to eliminate air bubbles essential for loft and lifting and its signature tutu-esque shape and structure.
Fourth Position: Don’t crack under pressure and lose the tempo! Many people open the oven and find a cracked pavlova, but fear not, as we mentioned before, all handling must be done in the gentlest way possible. If you were as sleight of hand as possible, you might have forgotten the vital step of adding acid, over whipped your whites, or rushed the cooking or cooling process. Remember, every step has a tempo to follow, and it's best to pace yourself accordingly.
Fifth and Final Position: As we reach the finale, what makes the whole thing worthwhile is the mix of elegance and taste, so don't ruin all of your meticulously deliberate efforts for a perfectly sound Pavlova by overloading on toppings. Best to let the simple, natural beauty shine through and resist the urge to gild the lily here. Some lightly sweetened whipped cream and seasonal fruit is all it takes to woo and wow a special someone this Valentine's Day.