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Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova

It's Australia Day here, and you just can't celebrate Australia Day without a pavlova. Ok, so Aussie pavs usually go for the white meringue covered in passionfruit, strawberries and kiwifruit - and very good they are too. But this is a bit of a high-falutin', gourmet version. Sam Kekovich wouldn't be impressed! But I have been throwing nice, juicy lamb chops on the barbie all week, and I did it specially last year, so I hope that makes up for it. Anyway, it's too hot today for lamb (38 degrees....)

I first saw this chocolate pav on an episode of Nigella's Forever Summer with my mum and nonna. All three of us were glued to the screen and I decided I had to make it. It's now become a bit of a staple for me. I bring it along every year for our Easter Sunday brunch, and various other events throughout summer and autumn. Every person should have this recipe up their sleeve; it's dead easy to make but looks very impressive and professional. The chocolate meringue base isn't overly sweet because of the cocoa and dark chocolate it contains, and mixed with the whipped cream and tart raspberries, it really is perfection from few ingredients.

I had never made a meringue before trying this for the first time, and was pretty intimidated. I remember mum saying that she had never been able to do meringue, so I assumed I'd stuff it up. But I just followed the instructions, and it was just fine. Some times have been better than others, when I've ended up with a flat, chewy frisbie, but every time still tastes good. I turn off the fan in our oven when making this, and I don't know if that helps things along or not. But I did it once, so I do it every time now. This time it turned out perfectly, and I was thrilled. I let it cool in the oven overnight and transferred it the next day to a cake stand. And what do you know? The bloody thing cracked! Sheesh! But the good thing about a pav is that it doesn't matter it if all caves in cos you just cover up any disasters with mounds of whipped cream. Hehehe.
Usually I use frozen raspberries, because the fresh ones are so ludicrously expensive, but this time I had a punnet of the fresh sort - it being high summer, of course. Taste-wise I don't find any difference, so don't feel bad going for the frozen.

Do feel bad going for any other fruit, though. This recipe just will not work with anything but raspberries. I'm sorry. I know there are people who don't agree with this, but the tart sourness of raspberries are the perfect foil to the intense, sweet chocolate meringue and fat cream. Chocolate and raspberry are a classic combination anyway. Chocolate and kiwi fruit are not. Strawberries don't quite work cos they don't have the right flavour or texture, but I guess could be used in a pinch. I guess.....
I didn't have enough fresh raspberries for this, but it didin't matter. It didn't look quite so voluptuously generous as in Nigella's photo, plus I forgot to shave dark chocolate curls over the top, but I still think it looks pretty damn tempting!

And the taste is incredible. You bite through the raspberry flavour bombs, to the cloud of whipped cream and onto the crispy meringue shell, to find the gorgeous chocolate gunge waiting for you underneath. So good. And so damn easy to make.
Read on for the recipe:

Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova

From Forever Summer, Nigella Lawson.
Find US measurements

You just cannot beat a pav in summer, and in particular this dark beauty. The crisp and chewy chocolate meringue base, rich in cocoa and beaded nuggets of chopped plain chocolate, provides a sombre, almost purple-brown layer beneath the fat whiteness of the cream and matt, glowering crimson raspberries on top: It is a killer combination.

for the chocolate meringue base:

6 egg whites
300g caster sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder, sieved
1 teaspoon balsamic or red wine vinegar
50g dark chocolate, finely chopped

for the topping:

500ml double cream
500g raspberries
2-3 tablespoons coarsely grated dark chocolate

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4 and line a baking tray with baking parchment.

Beat the egg whites until satiny peaks form, and then beat in the sugar a spoonful at a time until the meringue is stiff and shiny. Sprinkle over the cocoa and vinegar, and the chopped chocolate. Then gently fold everything until the cocoa is thoroughly mixed in. Mound on to a baking sheet in a fat circle approximately 23cm in diameter, smoothing the sides and top. Place in the oven, then immediately turn the temperature down to 150?C/gas mark 2 and cook for about one to one and a quarter hours. When it's ready it should look crisp around the edges and on the sides and be dry on top, but when you prod the centre you should feel the promise of squidginess beneath your fingers. Turn off the oven and open the door slightly, and let the chocolate meringue disc cool completely.

When you're ready to serve, invert on to a big, flat-bottomed plate. Whisk the cream till thick but still soft and pile it on top of the meringue, then scatter over the raspberries. Coarsely grate the chocolate so that you get curls rather than rubble, as you don't want the raspberries' luscious colour and form to be obscured, and sprinkle haphazardly over the top, letting some fall, as it will, on the plate's rim.

Serves 8-10.

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