I have not made a pavlova for a few years, but it is always lovely to re-visit an occasional bake such as this.
Rather than go for many layers of meringue, I went for one thick layer as the base, which was then topped with the cream and the wonderful coffee, walnuts and dark chocolate. These are three of my favourite flavours and are excellent when used in a pavlova, as they cut right through the sweetness of the meringue.
A simple bake
A pavlova is very easy to make, and it needs little hands-on time: you can have it in the oven within 10 minutes of starting. It then has a slow bake at a low temperature, requiring just patience while it bakes and cools.
Once cooled, it can simply be piled with whipped cream and whatever else takes your fancy.
The only thing to note when making any meringue, is the bowl you whisk the eggs in must be fully dry and clean, especially from grease. Other than that, it is a fairly fool-proof bake: and I do love a bake that is easy yet can look so spectactular.
About the recipe:
This is my adaptation of a standard meringue recipe: I have just added the coffee, walnuts and chocolate in quantities that I think give the right balance of flavours and textures in the meringue. For a plain pavlova, you simply omit the coffee, walnuts and chocolate and bake a little less.
I topped this with whipped double cream that is mixed with some vanilla bean paste and crème fraîche: the crème fraîche adds a lovely sour-sharpness.
A quick and intense coffee syrup is drizzled over the top. I like to make up a large batch of the syrup: it is wonderful poured over vanilla ice cream, for example. The syrup can be made well ahead and stored in a clean sealed jar for several weeks.
Top tip for making ahead:
The baked meringue is covered with a very thin layer of melted dark chocolate which not only adds extra dark chocolate oomph in there, its crisp texture works well with the soft, marshmallowy meringue interior.
It alo keeps the pavlova shell crisp for longer as the cream isn’t directly on top of the meringue: we had portions of this pavlova 3 days later and it was perfectly crisp!
Recipe: mocha walnut pavlova – serves about 10
- 4 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 240g caster sugar
- 5 teaspoons instant coffee powder, ideally espresso. If using granules, crush to a fine powder
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 teaspoons cornflour
- 1 rounded tablespoon cocoa powder
- 50g dark chocolate, fairly finely chopped
- 50g walnuts, fairly finely chopped
- 150ml water
- 50g caster sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground coffee
- 500ml double cream, whipped until firm
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- 200g crème fraîche
- about 50g melted dark chocolate
- grated dark chocolate or chocolate curls
- a few tablespoons of the coffee syrup (above)
- a few walnuts halves
(1) Preheat the oven to 130C (fan). Place non-stick baking parchment over a large baking tray.
(2) Mix the sugar with the instant espresso powder in a small bowl and set aside.
(3) In a clean, dry metal bowl whisk the egg whites and salt until they just reach soft peaks. I use an electric hand whisk but you can pop it into a food mixer with the whisk attachement added. Add the sugar little at a time, keeping whisking as you do, until you get firmer peaks that hold their shape.
(4) Sift the cocoa powder with the cornflour and fold gently into the meringue until fully incorporated. Fold in the chocolate and the walnuts.
(5) Spoon the meringue onto a baking parchment in a circle, oval or whatever shape you want. A few peaks around the edge don’t go amiss. Basically you can be precise or as rustic as you want with pavlova: it can take it.
NB: while I have gone for one large layer here, you can go for two 7-8″ layers. Or even dessertspoons of the mixture for individual portions.
(6) Bake for 2 hours. Turn off the heat and leave it in the oven until the oven has cooled: ideally overnight. If making a two-layer pavlova, bake for about 1hr 30 minutes. For individual mini pavlovas, bake for about 1 hour.
(7) For the syrup, put the ingredients into a small pan and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Simmer over a medium heat for about 7-10 minutes until reduced to about half the original volume: you should have a slightly thick syrup that is pouring consistency with a bit of stickyness. Cool.
(8) Fold the cream gently with the vanilla bean paste and the crème fraîche, trying not to loosen the mixture too much. Chill until needed.
(9) Carefully transfer the pavlova to a serving plate: a large circular pizza server helps here. If you are feeling at all nervous about it breaking (and a cracked or broken pavlova is part of the charm!), leave it on the baking parchment for serving: which actually works well visually I think.
(10) Pour the melted chocolate over the meringue and spread it thinly over the meringue. Chill to set.
(11) Spoon the cream over it and swirl it around randomly with a knife. Sprinkle over some grated or chopped chocolate. Scatter over the walnuts – either strategically placed around the edge to mark out serving sizes or randomly. Drizzle the coffee syrup over the top and a little down the sides.
NB: you can mix the walnuts with some of the coffee syrup so they have their own glaze, or you can leave the walnuts just as they are.