Passion fruit, pavlova, a little light larceny | Ann Mah

« | Home | »

Passion fruit, pavlova, a little light larceny

By Ann | November 8, 2012

I don’t know much about pavlova or passion fruit, but luckily I’ve got friends in the right places. Or, rather, I should say born in the right places: Australia and New Zealand. So when my dad decided to make a pavlova to celebrate his birthday a few weeks ago, I contacted my friends Katia and Sue — two of the best Aussie cooks I know — and asked if they could share their family recipe. Then, I flew out to Southern California to start whipping egg whites.

But before the baking, there was the basking — in the Southern California sunshine, and gluttonous taco feasts at Taqueria Don Victor, and visits to the Mexican supermarket where I gazed in silent appreciation at a wall of dried chilies. We also spent quite a bit of time hunting for passion fruit, traveling from one strip mall grocery store to the next. Alas, there was not a wrinkled sphere to be found.

Pavlova, in case you’re not familiar with it, is a dessert of soft meringue, topped with whipped cream, berries and passion fruit. I thought it was Australian, but it turns out that New Zealand also claims it (as verified by the Penguin Companion to Food). In fact, my parents’ Kiwi neighbor had served them his version a few days earlier — a cloud of meringue, dolloped with cream, and cascading — cascading — with passion fruit — no other fruit at all — just a generous, sunset-colored river of tangy-sweet, fragrant pulp.


As we separated eggs, and whipped the whites into peaks, and beat the sugar into the whites until they turned into a glossy, satiny mass, which we then sprinkled with tiny touches of vinegar and cornstarch (the chemist’s secret to a marshmallowy meringue), and lined a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the sticky fluff into an even layer, and popped it into a slow oven to set and brown — as we did all this, the whole time, I was thinking: passion fruit. Passion fruit.

By this point, my dad had revealed that the Neighbor actually grows his own passion fruit with the sole purpose of using it in pavlova. An entire vine — yes, passion fruit grows on a vine, who knew? — just for dessert. How passionate (ha ha) was that? Alas, the Neighbor and his wife weren’t home. And I knew this with one hundred percent dead certainty because they were staying in our apartment in Paris.

But now I think I understand where passion fruit gets its name. Because the idea of it kept calling to me, almost mocking me, driving me into a passion as I sliced strawberries and patted blueberries and raspberries dry with paper towels. And so when my mom suggested we go knock on the Neighbor’s door “just to see if anyone was home,” I found myself bounding across the street as if they could beam themselves into their garden.

No one was home, of course. But when we pushed on the garden gate, it just, er, happened to swing open. At the bottom of the garden I spotted the vine and, lying in a patch of dirt underneath, a few passion fruits, starting to wrinkle. They surely would have spoiled in the Neighbor’s absence. We rescued those fruit, saved them from being wasted. Yes, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.


The pavlova was saved and it was a triumph. But now that I’ve tried it with mixed berries, I’m wondering what a uniquely passion fruit version would taste like. I’d love to try it one day, if I could just get my hands on enough passion fruit. I wonder if my neighbors in Washington, DC have a garden…

Pavlova roll
From Katia Grimmer-Laversanne and and her mum, Sue

3/4 cup caster sugar (superfine)
4 egg whites
1 teaspoon corn starch
1 teaspoon white vinegar
200 ml double cream (whipping cream)
1 tablespoon icing sugar
1 vanilla bean, insides scraped out
Fruit for filling : raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, passion fruit

Preheat oven to 320-360°F (160-180°C) . Grease a shallow 10-inch x 12-inch (25cm x 30cm) pan and line with baking paper (leave a few cm of overhang).

Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gradually add the caster sugar until the mixture is stiff and glossy and the sugar is dissolved. Sprinkle the corn starch and vinegar over the top and gently stir into the mixture. Gently spread the mixture evenly in the parchment-lined pan, taking care not to overwork it. Gently smooth top.

Bake for about 10 minutes or until the top just begins to brown, remove from oven and let cool for a couple of minutes.

Beat the cream, icing sugar and vanilla insides until stiff peaks form. Place another sheet of baking paper on the counter and sprinkle with caster sugar. Turn the meringue onto the baking paper. Remove the lining paper and let the meringue cool for another few minutes. Spread whipped cream over the top, sprinkle with fruit.

From the long side of the meringue, roll the rectangle gently into a Swiss Roll shape, using the baking paper to help you maneuver. With the help of parchment paper, move the roll to a serving plate, cover with cling film and refrigerate for hour or so before serving, dusted with icing sugar and decorating with a few extra pieces of fruit if desired.

Topics: Cooking the Books, Cooking the Classics, Free of gluten, Recettes | 16 Comments »

16 Responses to “Passion fruit, pavlova, a little light larceny”

  1. Lindy Says:
    November 8th, 2012 at 9:59 pm

    Ah Ann, it’s all ahead of you. Nothing. And I mean nothing beats passionfruit on your pav. We have nothing but. And sad but true, our passionfruit vine on our farm in Australia was pretty dedicated to pavlova toppings only. That was probably because we never got enough fruit as they were eaten by animals other than humans. But it’s that illicit combination of tart and sweet and trying not to bite into the seeds.

  2. Katia Says:
    November 8th, 2012 at 10:04 pm

    Oh Ann, this is why we love you – what a delightfully naughty story!
    I am thrilled that the pav (as it is known in Oz) turned out to be such a success! And a little light larceny really does go with the territory, after all Australia was a convict island! I bet it tasted even better for the naughtiness ;)
    We had a beautiful passionfruit vine on the farm where I grew up, actually. My sister and I would lie on the grass on long, lazy, hot days, ripping open the passionfruit with our teeth and slurping out the pulp, our lips puckering from the exquisite acidity. Mum was never pleased that we raided her vine ;)
    ps. the New Zealanders can CLAIM the pav all they like, we Aussies know the truth ;)

  3. Lil Says:
    November 8th, 2012 at 10:18 pm

    Ooooo I’ve never tried the roll variation before. Looks so delicious too! And even gluten free… /takingnote

  4. Bobbi Says:
    November 8th, 2012 at 11:26 pm

    I love the idea of the fruit rescue, hilarious. Fruit everywhere will be grateful.

  5. CK Says:
    November 9th, 2012 at 12:57 am

    If you get caught, you can claim it was a crime of passion!

  6. Voie de Vie Says:
    November 9th, 2012 at 2:45 am

    Petty larceny isn’t so larcenous if they have the keys to your French castle. I’ve not had passionfruit, so it’s one more thing to put on the list.

    Do hope your Dad enjoyed it!

  7. Amy Kim (@kimchi_mom) Says:
    November 9th, 2012 at 3:45 am

    Never had pavlova or passion fruit, but both sound divine!

    By the way, do your parent’s neighbors read your blog?? ;-)

  8. Elizabeth Minchilli Says:
    November 9th, 2012 at 8:00 am

    I love pavlova, and will definitely try this rolled up version next time I make it. So pretty!

  9. Loulou in France Says:
    November 9th, 2012 at 5:43 pm

    What a great story!
    And how could you have just let those fruit on the ground go to waste? :)

  10. Lynde Says:
    November 9th, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    I think I would like the entire roll to myself!

  11. Ann Says:
    November 9th, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    Lindy — Ohhh, after reading your comment, I immediately started hoarding passion fruit pulp. By the way, are you sure your crop was stolen by animals? Or was it your NEIGHBORS???

    Katia — You and Lindy (and the Neighbor) are leading me to believe that every family in Australia and New Zealand grows a passion fruit vine JUST for pavlova. Could it be true? Don’t disabuse me of this notion!

    Lil — Yes! Gluten free! And I have another recipe coming up next week.

    Bobbi — Fruit must not suffer! :)

    Voie de Vie — Passion fruit has a lovely, bright fragrance (and actually it’s one of the flavors I love to find in wine like Sauvignon Blanc). But the real stuff has little black seeds that crunch oh-so-satisfyingly between the teeth. My dad loved the pavlova. Thanks for asking!

  12. Ann Says:
    November 9th, 2012 at 10:39 pm

    Amy — Some pavlovas have a crunchy edge and chewy center, but this soft marshmallowy version was a revelation for me. And… I certainly hope not!

    Elizabeth — And the best part about the rolled version is that it can be made in advance!

    Loulou — It would have been shameful, n’est-ce pas? The passion fruit NEEDED me.

    Lynde — And it’s so pretty when you slice it. Bon appétit!

  13. katy Says:
    November 10th, 2012 at 5:41 pm

    Reading this, it made me think of my own longing to pick up neglected Meyer lemons as I walk around Berkeley…I’ve always been more than a little reluctant to give a good home to (and make preserved lemons out of) the strays, but your post reminded me that “fruit rescue” is a noble goal. :)

    So glad you had a nice trip and that your Pavlova turned out beautifully! I also now want my own vine of passion fruit.

  14. Bob Says:
    November 11th, 2012 at 9:03 pm

    Yikes! You blew our cover! What will our neighbors think?

  15. gillian Says:
    November 12th, 2012 at 9:47 am

    delightful post! I had forgotten that how much missed Pavolva, also very popular in Southern Africa at christmastime. I should revive it here in Rome. I loved my passionfruit vine just outside my kitchen window in my first house in Zimbabwe.

  16. Ann Says:
    November 13th, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    Katy — Those Meyer lemons are crying for help! I think you should go for it! And, yes, I now aspire to a garden with a passion fruit vine.

    Dad — Is there a chance that they don’t read the blog? Hope, hope?

    Gillian — I had no idea pavlova was also popular in southern Africa — there must be a connection between summer and Christmas, a kind of hot weather yule log? And how WONDERFUL to have your own passion fruit vine — so romantic and delicious!

« | Home | »