A fantastic dessert for any special event, any time of year.
I don’t know about you, but I believe that everybody should have a couple of showstopper desserts in their repertoire; and this is one of mine. Everybody in the family who’s tried this has loved it, which I am very pleased about. The first time I made this was on Christmas Day night 2012 for the annual family get-together on Boxing Day, or St Stephen’s Day if you prefer. My mother told me the best time to make a pavlova is the evening before the day you need it, and I do what I’m told.
While making it, I couldn’t help but wonder why I was so scared to make meringue, it’s so EASY to make. You don’t believe me? Then read on. I was always a bit afraid of meringue; it was all the ‘soft peak’ ‘stiff peak’ thing that got me all. Then once I made this one, I was like ‘Why was I so worried? It’s so bloody easy!’ If you, yourself are worried about it, all you need to know is it’s a matter of timing. I find soft peak takes about three to four minutes at high speed in a free-standing mixer, and before you start adding the sugar and espresso powder mixture, turn it down to low so none of it gets over your work surface, or your clothes; after the last spoonful has been added, increase the speed back up to high and just let it mix for a couple of minutes. Another way of checking if the sugar’s all mixed in is to take a little bit of the meringue mixture and rub it between your thumb and fore-finger, you should feel no graininess.
As for the cream filling, it is best to whip the whole thing by hand, that way you get more control over the overall consistency of the cream, I picked up that little tip from Gordon Ramsay. When it comes to the cocoa powder, please, please, I beg you, use good quality cocoa powder, and not drinking chocolate, but I’m sure you know this already.
Cappuccino Pavlova – adapted from Nigellisima by Nigella Lawson
4 large egg whites
a pinch of salt
250g caster sugar
4tsp good instant espresso powder (do NOT use coffee granules)
2 tsp cornflour
1tsp white wine vinegar
300ml double cream
1tsp good cocoa powder, not drinking chocolate
As per usual, preheat the aroma-free oven to 180c/gas mark 4. (If you have a fan oven, it’s best to make this at 180c, not 160c.) You then lay a sheet of baking parchment over a flat baking sheet, and draw a circle on it using a 23cm cake tin (I use a springform base for this). You then wipe lemon juice over the whole inside of the bowl and whisk attachment of your food mixer, this should make it grease-free.
Into the bowl, add the egg whites and salt, then whisk until they form soft peaks. While this is happening, quickly weight out the sugar and combine this with the espresso powder. Once the whites are at soft peak, add the sugar mixture gradually. Once firm and the colour of cardboard, fold in the cornflour and vinegar with a metal spoon, also grease-free.
You then dab little bits of this on mixture the corners of the sheet of baking parchment and turn this over. Spoon the rest of this inside the drawn circle then, using a rubber spatula, carefully shape this into a flat topped round rather like, how Nigella puts it, ‘the crown of a boater’.
Put the whole thing inside the oven, and immediately, and I mean this, decrease the oven temperature to 150c/gas 3. Bake for 1 hour. After this cooking time, switch off the oven and go to bed, leaving the pavlova inside the oven overnight so it cools down completely.
The next day, remove the pavlova from the oven and carefully invert onto a large serving plate so the base is facing upwards, then remove the parchment. You then whip the cream until it is softly whipped not stiff. Carefully spread the cream over the meringue, then using a tea-strainer, sieve the whole thing with the cocoa powder.
This will keep in the fridge for about two days.