Pavlova is a dessert that is having something of a renaissance (at least in my life). It is such an icon of the 80's that I had lumped it together with big hair, Jane Fonda, and Dynasty, and decided it was best left in the past, only to make the odd unfortunate appearance for wakes, where it would be accompanying dry vol-au-vents and a tinned-fruit trifle. But when faced with the prospect of making a wheat-free dessert for a dinner party, I decided to try my hand at a Pavlova - and you know what, I'm really pleased I did.
I decided to make a chocolate meringue to make it slightly more interesting, piled with slightly sweetened whipped cream, raspberries, blueberries and white chocolate chips. It went down a treat. One thing to note, however, is that meringues are hydroscopic - they suck the moisture out of the air. So unless you have a large airtight container, this isn't a dessert to make too far in advance!
Meringue is really so simple to make. Stick to the few basic rules and you can't go too far wrong. You want eggs which are at room temperature and not too fresh (save the freshly laid eggs for your breakfast). You then need a squeaky clean bowl and a good clean whisk; any trace of grease or fat will play havoc with your stiff peaks. For each egg white you need 50g of caster sugar and other than that all you require is a little patience and strong arms (or an electric whisk).
Ingredients (serves approx. 10)
- 8 egg whites (carefully separated from the yolk)
- 400g caster sugar
- 4 tablespoons cocoa powder (sieved)
- 1 pint of double cream
- 1 tablespoon of icing sugar
- dash of vanilla extract
- 150g raspberries
- 150g blueberries
- 70g white chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 130deg celsius. Line a large baking tray with baking paper.
- In a large bowl beat the egg whites with a whisk (or electric whisk) for several minutes until they increase in volume and form very stiff peaks.
- Gradually add the sugar a tablespoon at a time as you continue to whisk. Take your time, there is no rush. Keep on whisking until all the sugar has been incorporated and you're left with a thick, glossy meringue. Sieve the cocoa powder in to the meringue and continue to whisk until fully incorporated.
- Spoon the meringue mixture on to the baking paper to form a big fat disc, perhaps about 30cm in diameter. Place into the oven and cook for about two hours. The top of the meringue should be lightly coloured and cracked, but if you touch it, there should be a slight hint of squidginess beneath. Turn off the oven and leave the meringue in the oven to cool completely.
- In a bowl whisk the cream to soft peaks and then sieve in the icing sugar and pour in the dash of vanilla extract, stir until combined. Be careful not to over whip the cream, nobody wants butter on their pavlova.
- Remove the cooled meringue from the baking paper and carefully place on your chosen dish, then pile high with the cream. Sprinkle over the blueberries, raspberries and white chocolate chips and that is it! Bob's your uncle, Fanny's your aunt; you've made a lovely Pav.