chocolate meringue tower

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Called a vacherin glacé, a meringue tower is three layers of pavlova with a whipped cream sauce in between the layers. It is incredibly sweet.

4 large egg whites, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 1/3 cups superfine sugar
1 cup toasted slivered almonds, ground fine
1 8-oz block cream cheese
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup chocolate chips
chocolate syrup
toasted slice almonds, optional

Preheat oven to 300˚F/175˚C. Prepare 2 baking trays. Line them with parchment paper. On one parchment, draw two 8-inch circles about an inch apart. On the second piece of parchment draw one 8-inch circle in the center. Flip over and set aside.

Place egg whites, vanilla, and cream of tartar in a large mixing bowl. With an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip on medium speed until soft peaks form (the tips curl over). Gradually add the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, beating on high speed until stiff glossy peaks form (the tips stand up straight). Gently fold in the 1 cup ground almonds.

On the prepared parchment papers, mound and smooth the meringue inside the circles. Bake 35 minutes. Turn off the oven and let the meringues sit for one hour in the oven. Do not open the door. After one hour, take out the meringues and gently peel off the parchment one meringue at a time. If not using right away, wrap airtight and place in an airtight canister until ready to use. In Bangkok’s humidity this is an essential step.

One to two hours before serving, make the sauce. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, place the cream cheese and butter. Blend until smooth. Add the sugar and the cream. Exchange paddle for the whisk attachment and whip until soft peaks form (the tips curl over). This can be made ahead, in which case, cover and chill until ready to use.

To assemble, place one meringue disk on a plate. Spoon 1/3 of the sauce on top. Sprinkle 1/3 of the chocolate chips and toasted sliced almonds, if using, on top. Cover with another disk and repeat two more times. For the top layer, drizzle chocolate syrup over the top. Chill 1-2 hours. Serve cold.

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pavlova with crème fraîche and tropical fruit compote

DSC_0392All you need is love–with fruit and crème fraîche–to make this simple yet elegant dessert. It is a favorite among our friends. At dinner tonight at Robert’s I brought this pavlova with tropical fruit compote and crème fraîche for dessert.

Pavlova with Crème Fraîche and Tropical Fruit Compote
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cooking tme:75 minutes
Resting time: 2 hours

Ingredients
Meringue
4 large (160 grams) egg whites, separate eggs while cold, then allow to come to room temperature, about 30 minutes
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup (200 grams) superfine (caster) sugar (use superfine because it dissolves quicker)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, optional
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch (corn flour)

Compote
2 kiwis, peeled and sliced
2 bananas, peeled and sliced on the diagonal
2 cups pineapple chunks
2 cups dragon fruit chunks
1 mandarin orange segments with juice
1-2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon mint, optional
1-2 tablespoons rum, optional
pinch of salt, optional
juice of half a lime
pulp of 6-8 passion fruits

Crème Fraîche
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1/2 cup Greek-style yogurt or a small carton of sour cream
2 tablespoons sugar

Prepare to bake. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F (130 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and draw one 8-inch circle on the paper. Reverse the paper and place it on the baking sheet. This is the form for the meringue.

Cake Baker’s Note: For the next step, be sure the bowl and beaters are free of grease. Wash in soapy water and dry them. Then wipe them down with vinegar and a damp towel.

Make the meringue. In the bowl of your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Add the cream of tartar. Beat on high speed until the egg whites hold soft peaks. Add vanilla (if using) and the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, and continue to beat on high speed. Scrape down the sides after the last spoonful of sugar. Continue whipping until the meringue holds very stiff and shiny peaks. Sprinkle the vinegar and cornstarch on top and gently fold.

Cake Baker’s Note: To fold, cut the whites with a silicone spatula and pull to the opposite end of bowl, then flip the spatula over. Turn the bowl one quarter turn and repeat. Continue folding and turning until the cornstarch is just combined.

Prepare to bake. Mound the meringue inside the circle drawn on the parchment paper, smoothing the sides, making sure the edges of the meringue are slightly higher than the center. You want a slight well in the center of the meringue to place the whipped cream and fruit.

Bake for 60 to 75 minutes or until the outside is dry and is a very pale cream color. Turn the oven off and let the meringue cool completely in the oven, about 2-3 hours. Don’t open the oven door.

Cake Baker’s Tip: The outside of the meringue will feel firm to the touch, if gently pressed, but as it cools you may get a little cracking and you will see that the inside is soft and spongy, like a marshmallow.

The cooled meringue can be made and stored in a cool dry place, wrapped in plastic, in an airtight container, for a few days.

Decorate and serve. Just before serving carefully remove the parchment paper and gently place the meringue onto a serving plate.

Make the crème fraîche. Place all ingredients in a bowl and whip until stiff peaks form. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Make the fruit compote. Squeeze a little lime on the cut bananas to prevent browning. Combine the ingredients the cut up fruits (reserve the passion fruit) and toss. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Assemble and serve the pavlova. Just before serving, cover the top of the meringue with the crème fraîche. Spoon the fruit on top. Drizzle passion fruit all over. Serve with extra fruit compote on the side.

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from Bangkok with love: pavlova with tropical fruit

My last recipe post was over two weeks ago!

That’s because I was packing, cleaning out the refrigerator in the Teeny Tiny Apartment, flying to Bangkok,  and getting over jet lag. Now that I’m recovered, I’m baking again. I’ve always wanted to try making this pavlova with tropical fruit. It’s superb with raspberries but divine with mango, kiwi, and passion fruit.

Make sure you have this mis en place:

4 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup superfine/caster sugar
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons superfine/caster sugar
1 mango diced
1 kiwi sliced and quartered
2 passion fruit, seeds and pulp only

Preheat the oven 250˚F. Prepare a baking tray with a 6-8 inch circle drawn in the center of a sheet of parchment. I ran out of parchment so I used a silicone liner. It worked!

In Bangkok, it is “winter”–meaning it is cool and not as humid–perfect weather to make the meringue. To make the meringue, separate 4 eggs while cold. Allow the whites to come to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Whip the whites until foamy, about 2-3 minutes. Add 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar and continue beating until blended. Add one cup of superfine/caster sugar one tablespoon at a time until blended. Continue whipping until the whites turn smooth and satiny. When you lift the beaters, the peaks should be stiff, the tips just curling over.

Scrape the meringue into the center of the circle. I didn’t want to draw on the silicone liner so I just guessed  the circle’s diameter would be  8 inches. Mound the meringue leaving a slight well in the center. Bake 60-75 minutes. Then turn off the oven and let the meringue dry out, about 2-3 hours. I was in a rush so I took it out after 1 hour before it had thoroughly cooled. As a result, the meringue crust was slightly chewy rather than crisp.

Beat the whipping cream with two tablespoons sugar. Spread the cream in the center of the meringue. If the shell cracks and breaks, don’t worry. In a bowl, gently toss the mango and kiwi together. Pour on top of the whipped cream. Sprinkle the passion fruit on top. Serve with a spoon!

Cake Baker’s Note: Choose wrinkled passion fruit as they will be the ripest. To cut open a passion fruit make the first cut at one of the poles. Don’t try to slice through the whole fruit but slice through the rind one hemisphere at a time. Scoop out the seeds and the pulp. Discard the “shells.”

pavlova: perfect, but not quite

It frustrates me that a meringue is not as simple as its recipe. There are just three ingredients: egg whites, cream of tartar, and sugar, but getting the proper height is the challenge. I have my theories.  The first time I tried this (Nigella’s Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova) I thought the lack of height was due to the fact I’d used packaged egg whites. Now although I am using fresh egg whites they are not rising high enough so now I think I didn’t whip them long enough to get them truly stiff.

I  heated the oven to 250˚F then I made the meringue. First I prepared a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Using an 8″ cake pan bottom as a template, I traced a circle in the middle of the paper with a black marker and turned it upside down on the tray. Then I set it aside for later.  I got together the ingredients for the meringue:

4 egg whites, separated when cold then brought to room temperature (about 30 minutes)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup superfine (caster) sugar

Cake Baker’s Note: The bowl and beaters must be absolutely free of grease and there must be no yolk in the egg whites or they will not whip up.

I whipped the egg whites on medium speed until foamy. On high speed, I  added the cream of tartar and whipped the mixture until soft peaks formed. This means when I raised the beaters, the peaks flopped over. I continued whipping while adding the sugar one tablespoon at a time, until the egg whites became satiny smooth and glossy, forming stiff peaks. I was afraid to overbeat them so I stopped after a few minutes. I remember reading somewhere to beat egg whites for a meringue for at least 10 minutes. I will have to try that another time.

I scraped the meringue into a mound in the center of the circle, making the edges slightly higher than the center. Then I put it in the oven between 60 and 75 minutes (an hour and 10 minutes for me) until it formed a hardened shell that was pale cream in color. I turned off the heat and let the meringue cool in the oven with the door closed for at least 2 hours. Then I carefully removed the paper and let it finish cooling on a wire rack while I prepared  the topping:

1 half-pint heavy cream
2 tablespoons superfine sugar (optional)
1 pint raspberries (or any kind of berries, kiwi fruit, mangoes, passion fruit–whatever inspires you!)

I made the meringue according to the very helpful directions (with pictures) on How to Make Meringue. This meringue inside was intensely sweet and puffy like a marshmallow, the outside was wafer-brittle and crisp.  The “marshmallow” had height this time but there was  yet still a dome of air above it enclosed by a crisp thin shell. So when I put the whipped cream on top, the delicate shell shattered and wafer-thin shards fell on top of the marshmallow beneath. We scooped it up anyway and ate it with raspberries, crackling and all. It was delicious. Such contrast of taste and texture: intensely sweet marshmallow-y meringue, crisp wafer shell, with the light taste of cream and the tang of raspberry.

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strawberry pavlova

Today is John’s birthday. I thought I would make him a white cake, his favorite, and a pavlova, as I discovered this summer, is really easy to make. A pavlova consists of a baked meringue disk topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit. This recipe was originally from allrecipes.com which I adapted. I also used strawberries instead of kiwi.


INGREDIENTS:
4 egg whites
1 1/4 cups white superfine (caster) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon juice or white vinegar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 pint heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar, optional
1 pint strawberries, hulled and sliced (6 kiwis, peeled and sliced, in original recipe)

DIRECTIONS:
1. Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Draw a 9 inch circle on the parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add in the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat until thick and glossy. Over-beaten egg whites lose volume and deflate when folded into other ingredients. Be absolutely sure not a particle of grease or egg yolk gets into the whites. Beat in the vanilla extract. Gently fold in the lemon juice and cornstarch.

3. Spoon mixture inside the circle drawn on the parchment paper. Working from the center, spread mixture toward the outside edge, building edge slightly. This should leave a slight depression in the center.

4. Bake for 1 hour. Cracks will form in the meringue. Cool in the oven with the door slightly ajar. Transfer to a wire rack. The meringue disk can be made a day ahead, cooled, then wrapped airtight in plastic.

5. In a medium bowl beat heavy cream on high speed. Sweeten, if desired, with two tablespoons sugar. Continue beating until stiff peaks form. Set aside. Carefully remove the paper from the cooled meringue disk, and place meringue on a flat serving plate. Using a large pancake turner will help as the meringue is fragile. Fill the center of the meringue with whipped cream. Top whipped cream with strawberries slices. Chill until ready to serve.

Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova

A pavlova is a cake with a baked meringue base. If you’re looking for a flourless chocolate cake with fresh fruit, this simple recipe from nigella.com  is the answer. It’s a recipe with some quirky British-isms (e.g. “squidginess”) but the rest, like “sieved,”  you can figure out.  For ease of use, I converted the measurements from grams to ounces. I made one mistake and that was I used liquid egg whites instead of fresh egg whites. The reason why liquid egg whites is a bad idea is because they have impurities in them that prevent them from whipping up into a meringue. It still came out all right though the meringue wasn’t as light and as fluffy as it should have been. Nevertheless, the cake turned out slightly sweet and refreshing.  Like eating a giant macaroon, a pavlova is the perfect summer dessert!

Chopping Chocolate

Ingredients

FOR THE CHOCOLATE MERINGUE BASE:

  • 6 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups (300g) caster sugar (superfine)
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder, sieved (sifted)
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic or red wine vinegar
  • 2 oz (50g) dark chocolate, finely chopped

FOR THE TOPPING:

  • 2 cups (500ml) heavy cream (at least 36% milk fat)
  • 2 cups (500g) raspberries
  • 2-3 tablespoons coarsely grated dark chocolate
Chocolate Meringue Disk

 Method

  1. Prepare to bake. Preheat the oven to 350˚F (180°C/gas mark 4) and line a large baking tray with baking parchment. You want to use a large tray in case the meringue spreads as it bakes.  Gently rinse the raspberries and spread them to dry on paper towels. To chop the chocolate, I cut a big sheet of waxed paper and put the chocolate in the middle of it. Start with a corner and use a serrated knife to whittle the chocolate into pieces. After several cuts, turn the chocolate to another corner and repeat. The waxed paper makes it easier to tip the chocolate shavings into the bowl.
  1. Prepare the egg whites. [The Cake Baker’s Note: Make sure the bowl and beaters are free of grease and there is no yolk in the egg whites.] In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until satiny peaks form, and then beat in the sugar one tablespoonful at a time until the meringue is stiff and shiny. Sprinkle on top of the beaten egg whites the cocoa, vinegar, and the chopped chocolate. Using a rubber spatula,  gently fold in the additions until the cocoa is thoroughly mixed in. Mound the meringue on the prepared baking sheet in a fat circle approximately 9 inches (23cm) in diameter, smoothing the sides and top.
  1. Bake the meringue. Place the meringue in the oven, then immediately turn the temperature down to 300˚F (150°C/gas mark 2) and bake for about 1 to 1 1/4 hours.  Nigella says, “When it’s ready it should look crisp around the edges and on the sides and be dry on top, but when you prod the centre you should feel the promise of squidginess  beneath your fingers.” Thanks to Encarta, I learned squidgy means “soft, damp, and yielding.”  Turn off the oven and open the door slightly to allow the meringue to thoroughly cool.
  1. Decorate the cake. Just before serving, invert the cooled meringue on to a big serving plate. Whisk the cream until soft peaks form and spread it on top of the meringue. Scatter or place the raspberries on top. Nigella writes, “Coarsely grate the chocolate so that you get curls rather than rubble, as you don’t want the raspberries’ luscious colour and form to be obscured, and sprinkle haphazardly over the top, letting some fall, as it will, on the plate’s rim.”
Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova

The meringue base is supposed to crack like this, showing just a hint of the rich chocolate inside. Next time I would use a darker chocolate, perhaps 70-80% cacao. As you can see that thin meringue base wasn’t able to hold up its half of the cake. Tip: Cut the cake with a serrated knife and use a sawing motion. Don’t press down.

Pavlova Cutaway