Meringues and I have a complicated past. It goes back to the third grade, when I was eating a meringue outside and a yellow jacket landed on my sticky, sugary hands and promptly stung me.
There were tears. And meringue became cookie non grata.
Flash forward 20+ years, the sting of my meringue memory softened by encounters with lemon meringue pie and baked Hawaii. It stayed safely on the periphery of my dessert consciousness for several years. Until Smitten Kitchen changed everything.
Side note: I LOVE SMITTEN KITCHEN. Literally every recipe I’ve ever made from Deb’s blog has been flawless. I’ve own both her cookbooks. Consider me a Smitten Kitchen smitten kitten.
It’s bigger than your face, looks like a lava rock, tastes like a truffle, and is much easier to make than I had anticipated. Meringue, welcome back. Let’s be friends.
Bittersweet Chocolate Pavlova
Recipe courtesy of the brilliant Deb Perelman at Smitten Kitchen.
I follow her meringue recipe to the T – opting for balsamic vinegar and bittersweet chocolate variations. And because I prefer less-sweet desserts, I omit the sugar from the whipped cream.
Active time: 15 min | Total time: 1 – 1 1/2 hours
- 6 large egg whites
- 1 1/2 C granulated sugar
- Large pinch of sea salt
- 1 t balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 good-quality cocoa powder, sifted
- 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 1 1/2 C heavy cream
- Optional: 2 t granulated sugar
- Optional: 1 t vanilla
- 4 C mixed berries
- 1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, shaved
Place baking rack into the center of the oven and heat to 350°F. Line your largest baking sheet — it needs to hold at least a 12-inch round because these can spread — with a sheet of parchment paper. Draw a 9-inch circle on it with a pencil and flip the paper over so that you can see the line but it won’t get into the pavlova.
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.
Mound the meringue into the 9-inch circle, smoothing the sides and top if you desire.
Note: You can secure the parchment to the baking sheet with a dab of meringue underneath it.
Place in the oven and immediately turn the temperature down to 300 degrees. The pavlova will bake for 60 to 90 minutes. When it’s ready it should look crisp on top and feel dry, but when you prod the center it should feel slightly “squidgy.” 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.
When you’re ready, invert the cooled pavlova onto a big plate and peel off the parchment. Flip back over. Whip the cream – with the sugar and vanilla, if using – until soft peaks form. Pile it onto the meringue. Scatter generously with berries and shave chocolate over with a vegetable peeler. Serve in wedges and keep leftovers in fridge.