All photos © Dina Avila 2014
I decided that since it’s been MONTHS since I posted a recipe here on Leek Soup that I would make up for lost time and make something epic for you. And by epic I mean a visually stunning dessert that has the potential for an epic fail. Who doesn’t like a challenge in the kitchen? It’s been snowing for three days here in Portland and today we are in the middle of an ice storm. Perfect weather for attempting a stacked pavlova. It’s really not a difficult dessert to make, but SO many things can go wrong. For example, fishing out an egg shell from the egg whites with your oily fingers? Bad. Any amount of residual oil or butter clinging to the side of the mixing bowl? Recipe for disaster. A high humidity day? Forget about it. No really, don’t do it. But freezing temperatures outside and cozy warmth in? Perfection.
I’ve been doing mostly editorial and restaurant work for the past few months or so and this is first food shoot I’ve done in our new home. Our old apartment was directly across a narrow alley from a warehouse that was painted a putrid shade of pale peach. That color would bounce into our kitchen around mid-day giving me approximately 4 hours of good daylight to shoot with. Even in cloudy weather. I now have multiple windows to shoot near (no ugly warehouse anywhere in sight), plus a basement that is slowly being transformed into a studio (and hopefully darkroom at some point). I expect this new arrangement will afford me some creative flexibility that the old place didn’t and I’m excited to see what lays ahead. I hope you are, too :)
Chocolate Hazelnut Pavlova Drizzled with Honey
The recipe is simple enough, but give yourself enough time to make it. At least 3 hours from start to finish.
Feel free to use whipped cream or marscapone instead of crème fraîche.
For the meringue:
9 egg whites
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons dutch cocoa powder
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar, plus more for cleaning
For the topping:
3-4 cups crème fraîche, whipped until fluffy
1 cup hazelnuts, roughly chopped
Dark chocolate, grated
Honey for drizzling
Warm your oven to 375
Line the bottom of two baking sheets with parchment paper and, using an inverted 8 inch bowl draw three circles.
Wipe down your beaters, bowl and large spoon with white vinegar to remove any potential grease. Do not skip this step as oil, even from your hands, is the arch-enemy of meringue.
Beat your egg whites at medium speed until frothy.
Increase the speed to medium-high and add the powdered sugar, one large spoonful at a time.
Add the brown sugar one large spoonful at a time.
Continue to beat the eggs until stiff peaks form. About 10 minutes.
Beat in the vinegar for a few seconds.
Sift the cocoa powder over the egg whites and using your large spoon, fold in. No need for it to be completely blended. Streaks are fine.
Spoon the meringue into the your parchment circles and use an offset spatula to spread evenly.
Bake for 5 minutes at 375 and then lower the temperature to 250 for an hour and a half. Until the meringues are dry to the touch.
If you’re using both oven racks, rotate the meringues half way through the baking time.
Remove the meringues from the oven and let cool completely on wire racks.
To assemble the meringues, spread whipped crème fraîche on top of each layer, sprinkle with grated chocolate and chopped hazelnuts. Drizzle with honey and gently stack the layers.