Friday, May 16, 2014

Chocolate Pavlova

Captain's Log

Hi everyone!

Happy springtime/early summer! We just got back from an awesome family wedding/vacation along the Gulf Coast. I'm sunburned and bug-bitten, but I'd expect no less from leisuring in the wild South. 

Here's some photo evidence:

Not bad, eh?

Now, back to food, ya lazy bums!
For the unfamiliar, a pavlova is a dessert made from whipping egg whites, sweetening them, and then flattening the mixture into a disc and baking it until it's crisp on the outside and marshmallow-y on the inside. You then put whipped cream on top and fresh fruit, like berries, mango, kiwi, etc. Fruit and/or chocolate sauces can also be involved. It's a good "wow 'em" dessert because it's so beautiful and also uncommon. And inexpensive! 

This is similar to Eton Mess, though for that you'd just crush up the pavlova and put it in a bowl rather than attempting to serve "slices" as you would for a pavlova. There's a weird backstory to the pavlova… something about both New Zealand and Australia attempting to claim it as their own. Named for a ballerina, Anna Pavlova. Though the Eton Mess is super British so I'm not sure either NZ or Australia could claim FULL ownership of the pavlova given its almost plagiarized identity.

I made a chocolate pavlova a few weeks ago after having watched Nigella Lawson make one on TV. I'd seen Ina Garten do it, as well, but hers was just lovely pure white whereas Nigella's was a deep dark chocolate, something I didn't know could be done for a dessert so simple and light. Once I learned of the chocolate recipe, obviously I had no choice but to try it. 

I pulled from a few recipes since internet commenters had some issues with both Nigella and Ina's published recipes. Here's what I used, more or less:

4 egg whites
1 cup sugar (or a little less)
3T cocoa powder
1tsp white vinegar
1/4 cup finely chopped bittersweet chocolate (chips are fine)
splash of vanilla
sprinkle of salt

For the toppings:

whipped cream to taste (sweetened, if you like. Add vanilla, if you like. Orange/lemon/lime zest could also be lovely additions)
Pretty fruits/grated chocolates
Fruit sauces
Chocolate sauces

I preheated the oven to 350° and I started with whipping the egg whites...
When they were pretty frothy…
I started adding sugar and kept on whipping until they were super shiny and thick and beautiful.
Then it was time for cocoa powder. I sifted it so as to avoid lumps, but I just sifted directly into the whites for simplicity's sake. Like my little sifter guy? This was a wedding present.
This is also around when I added a splash of vanilla and a pinch of salt. Then I added a teaspoon of vinegar, as per the instructions. Nigella and Ina say the vinegar helps keep the center of the pavlova "marshmallow-y and gooey." 
Then I finely chopped some chocolate…
I cannot explain the shift in colors here.
And I folded in the chocolate oh-so-gently.
Completely lovely, right?
When the chocolate seemed evenly distributed, I dumped the mixture out onto a parchment-covered baking sheet. Some professionals will instruct you to trace the shape of a round baking pan onto your parchment so you can create a perfect 8" circle. This, to me, is wholly unnecessary.
Just schmear it around. What's the big deal?
As you may recall, the oven is set to 350°. I put the pavlova in the oven and then immediately lowered the temperature to 300°. The idea is to quickly dry out the outer layer and then gently cook the inside. Quick tip: the pavlova isn't supposed to brown at all, so if you see it browning up, lower the temp even further. Nigella says 300° all the way, Ina says 180°… so I think there's some leeway here. Just leave it in there for an hour and 15 mins, then turn the oven off and let it cool completely with the pavlova still inside. You want it to "dry out." 
action shot
When it was all cool, I took the pavlova out of the oven. One should expect the dessert to puff up a little while in the oven, but as it cools (…still in the oven) it might fall in on itself and look like a concave crushed mess. Don't worry! It's okay!

I chose to put whipped cream and berries on mine because that's what I'm into. I only decorated half of the pavlova because I'm not confident in the shelf life of a dressed pavlova and I didn't want us to feel obligated to eat the whole thing in one sitting. Which you'll learn is entirely doable because it's such a light dessert! The lack of flour and fat (except, you know, in the cream on top) makes this a totally light and un-filling dessert. Perfect for the end of a large meal. Or a dinner party!
This was easy and awesome. You should try it!

No comments:

Post a Comment