Chocolate Pavlova with Berries and Whipped Cream
Serves 10. Recipe is from “Everything Chocolate: A Decadent Collection of Morning Pastries Nostalgic Sweets, and Showstopping Desserts” by America’s Test Kitchen.
Why This Recipe Works: If you associate chocolate decadence only with the ultrafudgy and dense, this ethereal chocolate pavlova will expand your chocolate horizons — in a glamorous display. Pavlova is a large meringue base for billowy whipped cream and a topping. But unlike uniformly crunchy meringue cookies, Pavlova offers a range of textures: a crisp outer shell; a tender, marshmallowy interior; and a pleasant chew where the two meet. Chocolate Pavlova was particularly intriguing to us: The richness of bar chocolate would balance some of the sweetness of the meringue. Instead of Italian meringue, which calls for the unnerving task of drizzling hot sugar syrup into egg whites, our pavlova is baked from a Swiss meringue: Sugar is dissolved in the whites as they’re heated over simmering water and then whipped. Chopped chocolate weighed down the meringue, interrupting the delicate structure and texture. We were able to fold in finely grated bittersweet chocolate to flavor every bite. Lightly sweetened whipped cream and berries brought things further into balance and made for a beautiful presentation of colors and textures. The chocolate gave the meringue plenty of flavor, but we couldn’t resist a generous drizzle on top. The showstopping dessert was light in texture but not in chocolate flavor, making it the perfect ending to a rich meal. Because eggs can vary in size, measuring the egg whites by weight or volume is essential to ensure that you are working with the correct ratio of egg whites to sugar. Open the oven door as infrequently as possible while the meringue is inside. Do not worry if the meringue cracks; it’s part of the dessert’s charm.
1½ cups sugar
¾ cup (6 ounces) egg whites (5 to 7 large eggs)
1½ teaspoons distilled white vinegar
1½ teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, grated
2 pounds (5 cups) blackberries, blueberries, and/or raspberries
3 tablespoons sugar, divided
Pinch table salt
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
2 cups heavy cream, chilled
1. For the meringue: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 250 degrees. Using pencil, draw 10-inch circle in center of 18- by 13-inch piece of parchment paper. Combine sugar and egg whites in bowl of stand mixer; place bowl over saucepan filled with 1 inch simmering water, making sure that water does not touch bottom of bowl. Whisking gently but constantly, heat until sugar is dissolved and mixture registers 160 to 165 degrees, 5 to 8 minutes.
2. Fit stand mixer with whisk attachment and whip mixture on high speed until meringue forms stiff peaks, is smooth and creamy, and is bright white with sheen, about 4 minutes (bowl may still be slightly warm to touch). Stop mixer and scrape down bowl with spatula. Add vinegar, cornstarch and vanilla and whip on high speed until combined, about 10 seconds. Remove bowl and, using rubber spatula, fold in grated chocolate.
3. Spoon about ¼ teaspoon meringue onto each corner of rimmed baking sheet. Press parchment, marked side down, onto sheet to secure. Pile meringue in center of circle on parchment. Using circle as guide, spread and smooth meringue with back of spoon or spatula from center outward, building 10-inch disk that is slightly higher around edges. Finished disk should measure about 1 inch high with ¼-inch depression in center.
4. Bake meringue until exterior is dry and crisp and meringue releases cleanly from parchment when gently lifted at edge with thin metal spatula, 1 to 1½ hours. Meringue should be quite pale (a hint of creamy color is OK). Turn off oven, prop door open with wooden spoon, and let meringue cool in oven for 1½ hours. Remove from oven and let cool completely before topping, about 15 minutes. (Cooled meringue can be wrapped lightly in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 1 week.)
5. For the topping Toss berries with 1 tablespoon sugar and salt in large bowl. Set aside for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, microwave chocolate in bowl at 50% power, stirring occasionally, until melted, about 1 minute. Set aside to cool slightly.
6. Before serving, whip cream and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in clean, dry bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment on medium-low speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase speed to high and whip until soft peaks form, 1 to 3 minutes.
7. Carefully peel meringue away from parchment and place on large serving platter. Spoon whipped cream into center of meringue. Spoon berries in even layer over whipped cream, then drizzle with melted chocolate. Let sit for at least 5 minutes or up to 1 hour. Slice and serve.
Nutritional analysis per serving: 400 calories, 22 grams total fat, 14 grams saturated fat, 55 milligrams cholesterol, 55 milligrams sodium, 50 grams total carbohydrates, 5 grams dietary fiber, 39 grams total sugars, 5 grams protein.