Nigella Lawson’s Forever Summer was the first cookbook I purchased when I decided I was ready to take on more challenging recipes. I was in love with her television show, Nigella, which first showed up on the Style Network. It was the first cooking show I saw that took television cooking away from the live action studio audience and into a beautifully shot, sensually described world. Although the book has fallen out of heavy rotation in favor of seasonal cookbooks (and Mike’s man-crush on Colicchio), it’s still a handy one to kick around. Plus the amazing mint julep peaches alone are worth the purchase price. Seriously. Those are a no-fail summer dessert.
For the June Cookbook Challenge, I grabbed Forever Summer and fell upon the chocolate raspberry pavolova recipe. Perfect! I’d saved the egg whites from the ginger chili creme brulee recipe (which called for 8 egg yolks) which formed the chocolate meringue base of the pavlova. Rather than buy raspberries, I took the opportunity to use up some of our gorgeous, ruby red strawberries from the market. Waste not, want not.
This is a triple threat of a dessert: The chocolate pavolva is crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, a layered chocolatey bomb that only gets better if you use high quality chocolate. Fresh whipped cream is dolloped on top and sprinkled with fresh berries and grated chocolate. Taken together, a bit of the dessert delivers bittersweet, creamy, and tart flavors all at once. It is a lick-your-fingers and clean-your-plate kind of dessert. It also serves about 6, so I recommend making this for a party. Otherwise you’ll find yourself polishing off the entire pavlova on your own. Which might not be the worst thing in the world.
One tip though: the directions indicate that the meringue base should cool in the oven after its cooking time is complete. Be sure to follow this. If taken out of the oven immediately after baking, the meringue will fall into a chocolate pancake. Still delicious, sure, but not as big and fluffy as its meant to be.
For the chocolate meringue base:
6 egg whites
1 cup sugar
3 Tb unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1 Ts balsalmic or red wine vinegar
2 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
For the topping
2 ¼ cups heavy cream
1 very full pint of raspberries (or strawberries)
2-3 Tb coarsely grated, bittersweet chocolate
Preheat oven to 350 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Beat egg whites until peaks form. Beat in sugar a spoonful at a time until peaks are stiff and shiny. Sprinkle over the cocoa and vinegar and then the chopped chocolate. Gently fold everything until the cocoa is thoroughly mixed in. Mound onto a baking sheet in a fat circle, approximately 9 inches in diameter, smoothing the sides and the top. Place in the oven, then immediately turn the temperature down to 300 F. Cook for about 60 to 75 minutes. When it’s ready it should look crisp around the edges and be dry on top but still have some give to it in the middle. Turn off the oven and open the door slightly, let the meringue disk cool completely.
When you’re ready to serve, invert into a big, flat-bottomed plate. Whisk the cream until 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 and sprinkle over the top.