Not sure why, but I’ve been making pavlovas for the July 4th holiday for the past few years, which isn’t exactly the most American of desserts. Pavlova (a New Zealand concoction named for a Russian dancer) is a huge meringue base or nest topped with whipped cream and fruit. Tart fruits like berries works best, since the meringue is so sugary.
Make the meringue right and you’ll get a crispy exterior with a gooey interior. The key is the cooling process. Make sure to cool it in the oven to get the right texture. This one has cocoa and chocolate bits in the meringue, which add a level of melty goodness to the center (or as Nigella calls it, “squidginess”).
Seriously, don’t be afraid to try this one. The hardest part of the recipe is separating the eggs. I love that Nigella’s version doesn’t even require obscure ingredients like cream-of-tartar (it uses vinegar instead). Just another reason why it’s so easy to crush on her!
Haters might say, isn’t this basically just sugar, cream, and fruit? Sure, but with the contrast between the crispy outer/oozy inner of the meringue, it takes those basic ingredients to a whole new level.
Recipe adapted from Nigella Lawson’s chocolate raspberry pavlova:
For the Meringue Base:
- 6 large egg whites
- 2 cups superfine sugar (I recommend 1.5 cups)
- 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
- 1 teaspoon balsamic or red wine vinegar (I used balsamic)
- 2 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped
For the Toppings:
- 2 cups heavy cream
- A couple cups of berries, mangoes, passionfruit, or any other tart fruit
- 1 to 2 ounces dark chocolate (optional)
Prepare the pan: 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 peaks form, and then beat in the sugar a spoonful at a time until the meringue is stiff and glossy.
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. It’ll probably be cracked in a few places, which is perfectly fine.
Let it cool: Turn off the oven and open the door slightly; let the chocolate meringue disk cool completely in the oven. When you’reready to serve, invert onto a big flatbottomed plate and peel off the parchment.
Decorate the pavlova: Whisk the cream till thick but still soft and pile it on top of the meringue, then scatter the raspberries on top. Coarsely grate the chocolate haphazardly over the top so that you get curls of chocolate rather than rubble, as you don’t want the raspberries’ luscious color and form to be obscured.