And when I say “Martha’s,” we all know I mean “Something one of Martha’s minions in the test kitchen came up with,” since I’m pretty sure Martha’s not up to her elbows in egg whites day in and day out. I, on the other hand, have no minions, and thus must make my own pavlova. Don’t feel bad for me. It’s a good life. I eat ganache right off the spoon.
Last Saturday’s spousal date included a trip to Q Fanatic, a barbecue joint up the street that’s enjoyed a helping of fame (and customers) via an appearance on a Food Network show. We had some vague warning about wait time, which the husband and I swept past and ignored. This is the part where you try to make sense of barbecue and pavlova, not an easy combination. Be patient, young frog. It’s coming. Alas, the wait was an hour, so we left jilted. Instead we swung north a block or two to Truffles and Tortes in Anoka. (Have you been there? You should go! And take me!) I entered empty-handed, left roughly ten dollars poorer but one large raspberry macaroon, one slice of Strawberry Chantilly cake, and one slice of bread pudding richer (I was sharing, remember–judge not). When we got home, we played Sequence, said “Macarooner!” over and over, and it wasn’t at all annoying. Then the next day, the husband could not stop thinking about the macaroon. It was an unconventional macaroon. Ganache in the middle, fresh raspberries marching around the outside, both between two crisp-chewy, bright-pink disks. We needed a macaroon. We needed texture, chewiness, ganache. Thus: the pavlova.
Making a pavlova has been on my to-do list for several years, ever since my friend Julianne described making one with her family at home, meringue topped with whipped cream and berries. Try not to want that. Finally I got around to it, via Martha, with a few adjustments. We even made it together, proving that pavlova can create miracles, since it is actually easier to mow my lawn under the Minnesota snow than to get my beloved psyched about baking with me.
I altered Martha’s recipe a little bit; I made this for book group, so I wanted individual desserts rather than one big one (kind of hard to cut). The original yielded one beautiful, giant, creamy cloud. I adjusted the amounts and got ten dessert-plate-sized pavlovas. Also, the original called for a “chocolate cream,” but I just made ganache. And I use good ol’ Hershey’s cocoa powder, ’cause it comes in a giant container at Costco and it’s a great price and I’m thrifty like that. It’s not Dutch-process. It’s Pennsylvania-processed. Hershey, Pennsylvania.
FOR THE MERINGUE
6 large egg whites, room temperature
1/3 C dark-brown sugar
1 C superfine sugar
Pinch of salt
1 t pure vanilla extract
3 T unsweetened cocoa powder
Dark-Chocolate Cream *I simply made ganache–recipe found here
1 2/3 cups heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks, sweetened to taste
dark-chocolate shavings, for garnish
Make the meringue: Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Draw ten small circles on parchment, then flip the parchment paper over. (I used the bowl of a martini glass–it’s about the right size for individual servings.) Pavlovas will spread as they’re baking–so give them a few inches between circles.
Mix whites, sugars, and salt in a mixer bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk constantly until sugars dissolve and mixture is warm, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat, and whisk on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form, about 8 minutes. Beat in vanilla.
Sift cocoa powder over meringue, and fold until barely any streaks remain. Using an offset spatula or a large spoon, spread meringue into rounds, using your drawn circles as guides. (Be careful not to spread out too much; meringue will spread more during baking). Form a well in center, being careful not to spread meringue too thin–or you’ll have a crunchy, more-fragile pavlova instead of chewy one.
Bake meringues until dry to the touch, about 1 hour. Let cool on sheet. Carefully peel off the disks. Meringue will keep, covered, for up to
1 day. Martha, Martha. I happen to know that it’ll keep pretty well for more like 4 or 5. They’ll look like this:
To assemble pavlova: Spread ganache evenly in center of meringue, leaving a 1/2-inch border from edge.
Spread whipped cream over chocolate cream.
Garnish with chocolate shavings. (I used a 75% Lindt bar here.) I like to use a Microplane for this–I’ve only recently acquired this, but I’ve found plenty of uses for it. It’s perfect for lightly grating something hard.