I discovered pavlova about a year ago and fell madly in love with it. For those of you who aren't familiar, it's basically a cake-sized meringue usually topped with whipped cream and fruit. The whole thing tastes airy and delicately sweet. I love the meringue's crunchy exterior and the inside always reminds me of eating cotton candy with its sugary dissolution once it's in your mouth.
I decided to finally try my hand at baking one. I used Nigella Lawson's recipe, but opted to go with strawberries instead of her suggested raspberries. It turned out exactly as I hoped it would. While the recipe is long, it's not complicated. Just be sure to make the meringue on a dry day.
My only word of warning, this turns out big and it's an eat-it-the-day-you-make-it kind of dessert, so it's probably best to invite people over to share, very special and deserving people. It's also one of those desserts that loses some of its prettiness once you slice it and pile the fragments on a plate, but trust me, no one will care.
Chocolate Pavlova with Strawberries and CreamVariation on Nigella Lawson's recipe
For the Meringue Base:
6 large egg whites
2 cups superfine sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1 teaspoon balsamic or red wine vinegar
2 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped
For the Toppings:
1 1/2 cup heavy cream, slightly sweetened with 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup sliced strawberries, sweetened with 1/2 tablespoon powdered sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment. Draw a 9-inch-diameter circle on the paper with a pencil, tracing a round cake tin that size. Flip the paper over so your meringue doesn't touch the pencil marks - you'll still be able to see the circle.
Make the meringue: Beat the egg whites with a mixer until satiny peaks form, and then beat in the sugar a spoonful at a time until the meringue is stiff and shiny. Add the chocolate: Sprinkle the cocoa, vinegar and then the chopped chocolate over the egg whites. Gently fold everything with a rubber spatula until the cocoa is thoroughly mixed in.
Shape the meringue: Secure the parchment to the baking sheet with a dab of meringue under each corner. Mound the meringue onto the parchment within the circle, smoothing the sides and the top with a spatula.
Bake the meringue: Place in the oven, then immediately turn the temperature down to 300 degrees F and cook for one to one and a quarter hours. When it's ready, it should look crisp and dry on top, but when you prod the center you should feel the promise of squidginess beneath your fingers.
Let it cool: Turn off the oven and open the door slightly; let the chocolate meringue disk cool completely in the oven. When you're ready to serve, lift meringue with spatula and peel off the parchment. Place on a large plate.
Decorate the Pavlova: Slice strawberries and combine with 1/2 tablespoon powdered sugar, set aside. Whisk the cream till thick but still soft, add the sugar half way through. Pile the whipped cream on top of the meringue, then pile the strawberries on top. You want the Pavlova to look like a frosted cake. Yields 8 to 10 servings