Chocolate therapy.

I woke up Sunday morning craving chocolate cake.

It was a strange craving because, although I adore cake, chocolate is not my favorite.

I perused my cookbooks in search of the perfect recipe, only to find I should have started a day earlier if I really intended to serve Chocolate Mousse Layer Cake for Sunday Supper. (A tried-and-true recipe from Fine Cooking’s “Sweet Cakes,” I’ve made this cake many times. But I had forgotten that on top of baking and mousse-making, it takes a six-hour chill.)

So I settled on a recipe for chocolate pavlovas, with a twist. The recipe called for fresh fruit, but — with a crisper full of just-ripe cherries — I decided on a spiced cherry sauce of my own making.

The result, which I’m calling Black Forest Pavlova, was the perfect scratch for my chocolate itch . . . rich enough to satisfy my craving, light enough for a summer day.

Chocolate, cherries and cream. Yum!

Black Forest Pavlova

(adapted from the Chocolate Pavlova recipe in Fine Cooking’s “Sweet Cakes”)

For the pavlova:

4 large egg whites, room temperature

1/8 tsp cream of tartar

1/8 tsp table salt

1 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 tsp cornstarch

1 TBLS red wine vinegar

3/4 oz (1/4 cup) unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder, sifted

For the whipped cream:

1 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream

2 TBLS granulated sugar

For the spiced cherry sauce:

2 cups fresh cherries, halved and pitted

1/2 cup white wine

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/8 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp nutmeg

1/8 tsp allspice

2 TBLS fresh squeezed orange juice

2 TBLS cornstarch

3 TBLS cold water

To make the pavlova:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line one or two baking sheets with parchment paper (I prefer Silpat silicone baking mats) and set aside.

With an electric hand mixer or stand mixer, whip the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt in a large dry bowl on medium speed until foamy, about 30 seconds.  Gradually add 1 cup sugar and then the cornstarch and vinegar; whip on medium high until the whites hold stiff peaks and look glossy, another 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the sifted cocoa powder and mix on low speed until mostly combined, 20 to 30 seconds more, scraping the bowl as needed. Finish mixing the cocoa into the meringue by hand with a rubber spatula until well combined and no streaks of white remain.

You can make one large shell (approximately 9 inches in diameter) or several small shells by piling large spoonfuls of meringue on the baking sheet(s), spreading it out with a spatula, and shaping it into one or more circles. If you are serving several people at once, a large pavlova works well. But since I was serving only 4 for supper and I knew it wouldn’t store well after assembly, I decided to make 9 four-inch pavlovas.  That way, I could store the whipped cream and cherry sauce separately in the refrigerator and assemble and serve this dessert as desired over a few more days.

Bake for 10 minutes and then reduce the heat to 300 degrees and bake until the meringue has puffed and cracked around its edges, about 45 minutes more. Turn off the oven, prop the oven door open, and allow the meringue to cool to room temperature, at least 30 minutes.  The pavlova(s) can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for three days or more.

To make the whipped cream:

With a hand mixer or stand mixer, whip heavy cream in medium bowl, gradually adding sugar, until it holds a soft peak.  Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.

To make the spiced cherry sauce:

Combine all ingredients except water and cornstarch in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over a medium flame.  Cover and reduce flame, allowing cherries to simmer until they are soft, about 10 minutes.  Uncover, return flame to medium high, and bring mixture to a full boil. Stir cornstarch into cold water until dissolved, add cornstarch mixture into cherry sauce.  Stir while boiling until the sauce is thickened.  Remove from flame and cool, then store in an airtight container and chill in the refrigerator.

To assemble the dessert:

Top each pavlova with a generous amount of whipped cream and top with spoonfuls of chilled cherry sauce.  Serve immediately.  Serves 8-10.

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