Thursday, March 15, 2012

A lil' bit of heaven

This is a pavlova. Pavlova? Yes, pavlova. I'd always been intrigued by this dessert made with egg whites baked into a crunchy-on-the-outside-gooey-on-the-inside mound topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit but I had never had one. So when I made creme brulee for my book club the other day and had a bunch of egg whites left over I thought "Hey! I like obesity! Why just make one incredibly rich dessert when I can make two!" I almost hit a stumbling block when I realized that I didn't have raspberries or peaches or any of the other traditional pavlova toppings. But then I thought "What could I substitute for fresh fruit? Of course! Toffee crumbles!!" and this magical pavlova was born. I guess you could use fruit if you want, but the toffee was so delicious, why would you want to?

Chocolate Pavlova with Toffee Bits

  • 6 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 2 cups of superfine sugar (if you don't have superfine sugar just pulse your regular sugar in the food processor. Or just use the regular sugar. It won't matter too much.)
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon of vinegar (I used balsamic)
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • powdered sugar, to taste
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 or 3 chopped up chocolate and toffee candy bars
Preheat the oven to 350°. Put a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet and draw a 9 inch circle (just trace around a 9 inch cake pan). Flip the parchment over so you can still see the line but you don't have to worry about getting pencil lead on the pavlova.

Whip the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar and keep beating. The mixture will get stiff and glossy. Sift in the cocoa and sprinkle in the vinegar. Fold to combine. 

Plop the meringue onto the parchment paper and spread until you fill the 9 inch circle. Smooth the top and sides. Place in oven and immediately turn the temperature down to 300°. Bake for about 1 hour. The pavlova should look dry and crackly on the top but still seem slightly gooey on the inside. Turn the over off, prop the door open slightly and leave to cool. This is best done when your toddlers are already in bed and won't try to climb in the oven. You can do this a few hours or even a day before. Just put the completely cooled pavlova in an airtight container. 

Whip the cream until stiff. Add vanilla and powdered sugar to taste - remember, the pavlova is really sweet and you are topping it with toffee chips, so don't over sweeten the cream. 

When you are ready to serve, put the pavlova on a big flat plate, mound generously with the whipped cream and sprinkle the toffee bits over the top. Slice into wedges and serve. Eat, enjoy, luxuriate. (PS. The left overs are also great eaten with one hand like a big cookie after the book club has gone home. I may speak from experience.)
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