Alex’s birthday was on Friday. We headed to the casino for the night to celebrate, since that’s one of his favorite things to do; he’s not really a gambler, but he loves the process of playing the games (all the algorithms involved, etc.. he’s a nerd). Since we were going to be away for the night, I had a dessert ready for him when he got home from work in the afternoon. It turned out by no means perfect, but it is extremely tasty and perfectly decadent for a birthday.
As I’ve mentioned many, many times before, Alex is a huge fan of all things coffee. He’s a big fan of meringues, too, so I wanted to make him a cake version of meringues – pavlova! I chose coffee and chocolate for the flavors, using a whipped chocolate ganache instead of the standard whipped cream in a pavlova. I used whole milk instead of cream in the ganache so that I could use the lactose-free version so nobody would have hurt tummies that evening (we’re both lactose intolerant).
This dessert is so, so rich. The meringue itself is extremely sweet, and while the dark chocolate ganache does a great job at cutting that sweetness, it makes it all the more rich tasting. Perfect for a celebration, but I definitely couldn’t handle eating this every evening, like I could with most other desserts I make. Worth it, though!
The only thing I was really disappointed about with this was the fact that my oven did not want me to excel at this dessert. My oven has extremely uneven heating, so meringues are more prone to cracking every time I make them. This time, I double layered my baking sheets to diffuse the heat better, but they still cracked a good bit. It’s definitely not the prettiest of desserts, but the taste definitely overpowers that!
Have you ever made or eaten a pavlova? What are your favorite flavors – the standard berries and cream, or something out of the ordinary?
- 1 1/4 cups unrefined cane sugar
- 2 Tbsp. instant espresso powder
- 4 egg whites
- pinch of salt
- 2 tsp. cornstarch
- 1 tsp. white wine vinegar
- 8 oz. dark chocolate, chopped (I used 72%)
- 1 cup whole milk (or heavy whipping cream)
- 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
- 2 Tbsp. Kahlua (or other coffee liqueur)
- pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 350ºF, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Trace two 6-inch circles on each sheet of parchment (4 total), and turn the parchment over with the marked side down.
In a small bowl, stir the sugar and espresso powder together, and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the eggs and salt together at medium speed until they hold soft peaks. Add the sugar/coffee mixture, one tablespoon at a time, while still running, continuing to whisk at medium speed until stiff peaks form.
Once there are stiff peaks, gently fold in the cornstarch and vinegar. Divide the meringue evenly between the 4 traced circles on the baking sheets, smoothing it with a spoon.
Put the prepared baking sheets into the oven, and immediately turn the temperature down to 300ºF. Bake for 1 hour, until the tops are dry and set.
Turn off the oven, and leave the meringue in the oven to cool to prevent cracking.
Place the chopped chocolate into a large, heat-proof bowl. Set aside.
In a small saucepan over low heat, heat the whole milk (or cream), until just boiling. Immediately remove from heat, and pour the hot milk over the chopped chocolate. Whisk until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Stir in the vanilla, Kahlua, and salt. Place in the fridge to chill to solid.
Once the ganache is set (you can scoop it with a spoon), transfer it to the bowl of a stand mixer (or use a hand mixer). Whip until soft and lighter in color.
Once the meringue layers are completely cool, gently remove the meringue layers from the parchment.
Place one layer onto a serving plate. Spread or pipe with the whipped ganache evenly, and place the second layer on top. Spread with more ganache, and repeat with the remaining layers. Spread the top with the remaining ganache, decorating/piping as desired.
Serve. Store leftovers, loosely wrapped, in the refrigerator.
meringue layers adapted from Nigella Lawson