Put some love in your Valentine’s Day dessert plans by making a showstopping pavlova — a soft-centered meringue the size of a cake, topped with whipped cream, sliced strawberries and kiwi fruit.

This decadent treat boasts a dramatic look and is ideal for a special occasion. You might think it appears too difficult to make, but with only a handful of ingredients, it is surprisingly easy.

The dessert is named after Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, a superstar in her day. She toured Australia and New Zealand in 1926, and both countries have competing stories about the creation of the dessert.

As the New Zealand story goes, the chef of a Wellington hotel created the billowy dessert in her honor, claiming inspiration from her tutu. Australians, on the other hand, believe pavlova was invented at a hotel in Perth and named after the ballerina when a diner declared it to be “light as Pavlova.”

Matt Campbell is from New Zealand, grew up in both countries and co-owns Mountain Pie Co. with his wife, Tara. Though the Colorado Springs resident claims “fair standing” on the issue of which country has bragging rights, he offered a “no comment” as to his ultimate opinion. But he did offer a little perspective.

“Pavlova, or more fondly referred to as ‘Pav,’ is a huge part of New Zealand and Aussie culture,” he said. “And like all things shared by Kiwis and Aussies, its national belonging is highly coveted and thickly disputed.”

He had more to say about the actual treat.

“Pav is not to be confused with a hard-shell meringue, which is what I’ve seen with most foreign interpretations of this dessert,” he said. “It’s cooked at a low 225 to 250 degrees for a few hours and is cooled in the oven so you get a crispy light shell and a soft, marshmallow-y center.”

Heidi Trelstad, owner of Chef Sugar’s Cakes & Confections, doesn’t include pavlova as a regular menu option, but she does a bang-up job on this beauty for special occasions. For the cover photo, she went with the traditional round shape designed to fit on a cake stand. But she suggested that individual heart-shaped meringues could be made easily.

“They would just need to be baked a little less time,” she said. “You can dye the meringue with powder- or water-based colors. Avoid fat-based colors as they will hinder the whites from whipping.”

The meringue shell can be made up to two weeks in advance.

“It can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge,” she said. “When you’re ready to serve, make the whipped cream or mousse and top with berries or other fruits to finish. This is a great dessert choice for home bakers because it’s easy to make, cost-effective and will still leave your guests wowed!”

Contact the writer: 636-0271.

contact the writer: 636-0271.

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Food writer for features life section and columnist for Go! Entertainment - Table Talk column

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