Look, no one is ever going to marry me for my pavlova. (I mean, talking about dodging a bullet…) This one was particularly underachieving. First, I thought I’d be clever and try to add the cocoa at the start, mixed with the sugar, so that it would mix the best. Nope! It never fully whipped. With this in the trash, I began my next one, breaking an egg yolk right into the white. I can usually get it all out (tip! use the empty shell as a scooper/skimmer) but not this time. I started a new bowl and, yup, did it again. Finally, with six uncompromised egg whites and cocoa stirred in only at the very end, ensuring a respectably thick, shiny plume of meringue, I began piling my chocolate plumes on a 9-inch round parchment circle, only to realize this wasn’t very bright, as the meringue would spread. I cut a new, larger square of parchment and used the old one as a sling/tube-of-a-pastry bag to land the new one in a great, elegant swirl and then fell over laughing (and texting everyone I know with the picture because: all grownup here!) because it looked precisely like everyone’s favorite emoji. Smoothed into more of a mound, I baked it at the wrong temperature and it got too crispy and riddled with cracks. Anyone left reading from New Zealand just is doing this right now. (Don’t worry, I retested it — woe is me — to confirm that the correct temperature and times are indeed correct.)
But I have one thing going for us, and that’s that this pavlova is the most chocolaty I’ve ever had. The apartment air was steeped with eau de brownies, the very best perfume. Even a day layer, this cake of a meringue is decadent but not heavy, basically dessert magic. Do not be deceived, as I have been in the past, by the pale beige shade of the outer shell — inside, it’s like a truffle with the impact of and the texture of a pillow.
One of the reasons I think pavlovas can be a hard sell outside, say, the Pavlova Motherlands of Australia and New Zealand, is that I hear from most people that they find them to be too sweet. But I was able to reduce the sugar a bit from the norm here and didn’t miss it; adding salt also helps as does chocolate, not just because things with chocolate > things without chocolate but because the bitterness of cocoa and chopped chocolate here really kept the sugar in check, as does a plume of barely sweetened whipped cream and a cascade of berries. Let’s not even pretend that we don’t want to swan dive in.
One year ago: Caponata
Two years ago: Chocolate and Toasted Hazelnut Milk and Herbed Tomato and Roasted Garlic Tart
Three years ago: Baked Pasta with Broccoli Rabe and Sausage
Four years ago: Fig Olive Oil and Sea Salt Challah
Five years ago: Roasted Eggplant with Tomatoes and Mint and Red Wine Chocolate Cake
Six years ago: Grape Foccacia with Rosemary
Seven years ago: Chocolate Pudding Pie and Roasted Tomatoes and Cipollini
Eight years ago: Braised Romano Beans
Nine years ago: Tortilla de Patatas
And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Chocolate Peanut Butter Tart
1.5 Years Ago: Black Bottom Oatmeal Pie
2.5 Years Ago: Broccoli Cheddar and Wild Rice Casserole
3.5 Years Ago: Coconut Bread
4.5 Years Ago: Potato Knish, Two Ways
Chocolate Pavlova with Berries
- 6 large egg whites
- 1 1/2 (300 grams) cups granulated sugar
- A couple pinches of sea salt
- 1 teaspoon (5 ml) balsamic or red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup (20 to 25 grams) cocoa powder, the best you have, sifted
- 2 ounces (55 grams) semi- or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 1 1/2 cups (355 ml) heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons (10 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
- 4 cups mixed fresh berries
- 1 ounce (30 grams) semi- or bittersweet chocolate, to finish
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. Sprinkle the sea salt, cocoa, vinegar and then the chopped chocolate over the egg whites and gently fold everything with a rubber spatula. I intentionally left mine a little swirly/undermixed.
Shape the pavlova: You can secure the parchment to the baking sheet with a dab of meringue underneath it. Mound the meringue into the 9-inch circle, smoothing the sides and top if you desire.
Bake the meringue: Place in the oven and immediately turn the temperature down to 300 degrees. The pavlova will bake for 60 to 90 minutes, but most likely in the middle. When it’s ready it should look crisp on top and feel dry, but when you prod the center you should feel, in the delightful words of Nigella, “the promise of squidginess” beneath your fingers. Turn the oven off, leave the door slightly ajar, and let the meringue cool completely inside. You can leave it overnight. It can also be kept at room temperature until needed.
To serve: When you’re ready to serve, invert the cooled pavlova onto a big plate and peel off the parchment. Whip the cream with the sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form. Pile it onto the meringue. Scatter with berries and shave chocolate over with a vegetable peeler. Serve in wedges and keep leftovers in fridge.