Our recent foray into fruit-studded sweets has proved to be educational and delicious, and today I am delighted to share with you the final recipe in this unofficial series. If you’ve never had the pleasure of eating pavlova, I implore to make plans for this dessert as soon as you can. It’s about as good as it gets for a meringue-lover like me, and with fresh berries abounding in our midst, there’s never been a better time to indulge.
There are several flavors and textures going on here, yet they all come together harmoniously. The base is composed of a meringue that is crisp on the outside, and the center is moist and reminds me of an fluffy marshmallow. Its chocolaty sweetness is balanced by the tart raspberries and bitter cacao nibs, the whipped cream serving as the glue that holds it all together. It’s decadent yet light and perfect for summer.
- 6 egg whites, at room temperature
- 2 cups superfine sugar (see note under Tips and Tidbits)
- 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups fresh raspberries
- 1-2 tablespoons shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
- 1-2 tablespoons cacao nibs
- Begin by preheating your oven to 350 degrees. Next, draw a 9-inch circle on a piece of parchment paper with a pen or pencil (tracing a 9-inch cake pan makes this part a cinch, or you can use a ruler to measure and make markings to form a circle). Place the parchment on a metal baking sheet, writing-side-down; your markings should be visible through the other side.
- In a clean, dry bowl of a stand mixer (or you can alternatively use a handheld electric mixer with a glass or stainless steel bowl), beat the egg whites at medium speed until satiny, soft peaks form (to test this, lift the beater from the egg whites; you want to see a gentle peak that quickly falls over). While the beater is mixing, very slowly add the superfine sugar, a couple tablespoons at a time, until it has all been incorporated. At this stage, stop the mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, and resume mixing until glossy, stiff peaks form. Your meringue is ready when a peak forms when you remove the beater, and it stays upright without falling over.
- Remove the bowl from the stand mixer if you are using one, and sift in the cocoa powder. Add the vinegar and gently fold the meringue until all of the cocoa powder is incorporated and no dry spots remain. Transfer the meringue to the prepared parchment-lined baking sheet, staying within the 9-inch circle. Use a rubber spatula to shape it into an even disc.
- Place the pan on the center rack of the oven, immediately reduce the temperature to 300 degrees, and bake for 55-65 minutes until the meringue is dry but still tender in the center. Turn off the oven and open the oven door just slightly, then let the pavlova cool in the oven, without disturbance, for 1 hour. Note that the surface of the pavlova may crack and collapse slightly during the cooling process, but that’s totally normal and to be expected.
- While the meringue cools, prepare the whipped cream by beating the heavy whipping cream together with the vanilla extract until the peaks just start to stiffen. Avoid overbeating as this will cause a grainy texture.
- Immediately prior to serving, invert the cooled meringue onto a large serving platter and top with whipped cream, fresh raspberries, coconut, and cacao nibs. Leftovers should be covered with plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator.
Adapted from Nigella Lawson.
Tips and Tidbits
- Raspberries and chocolate form a natural union, but go ahead and play around with the toppings if you are feeling adventurous. Blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, or kiwi would be tasty; opt to add the coconut and cacao nibs or not; maybe try using chopped nuts or dark chocolate pieces for another change of pace. This is your dessert, so you get to mix and match the flavors and textures in whatever way you see fit!
- If you are curious as to why the recipe specifies using room temperature egg whites, it is because this allows them to be beaten to a greater volume. If your eggs have been refrigerated, try separating them as your first step (before preparing your pan and parchment paper and assembling the other ingredients). By the time you are ready to beat them, they will have mostly lost their chill.
- Vinegar may seem like an unlikely player here, but its acidity helps to stabilize the meringue and ensure a proper texture. I used red wine vinegar, but any variety will do. Freshly squeezed lemon juice would also work.
- The recipe calls for superfine sugar, which is also often referred to as caster sugar or baker’s sugar. It is essentially regular granulated sugar that has been ground to have a finer grain and can be purchased in the baking aisle of most grocery stores. If you have a food processor, you can make your own by processing granulated sugar until it is very fine (measure the 2 cups for the recipe after it has been ground). Regular granulated sugar is likely to work in a pinch, but know that you may detect a slight graininess in the final product.