The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers’ to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard.
This month's chocolate pavlova is not a new dish for me. The national dessert of Australia, named after a famous ballerina, and one of the worlds most under appreciated desserts, has always been a favourite of mine. Never heard of it? Well, its a meringue - a simple whipping of egg whites and sugar, spread into a puffy disc and baked long and low in the oven until it cracks and dries. Deep inside it retains a puffy, chewy, marshmallow like centre. Hmm... this sounds like a friend of mine... This disk of non fat goodness gets smothered with whipped cream and then piled high with fresh fruit. Even if its sometimes a hard sell on paper, its always a hit once served. I've made many a version, some chocolate, some vanilla, covered in canned fruit or frozen raspberries, but usually with local fruit at the height of summer, after all this really is the perfect summertime dessert. I've filled them with the classic whipped cream, pastry cream, chocolate sauce and all manner of ice cream and sorbet, my favourite way indeed. Coincidentally last month I enjoyed a perfect example crafted by my friend, Bryan, done to such complete perfection it would have made any Aussie proud. It was a showstopping plateful of crispy, craggy, golden tinged meringue - marshmallow-y in the middle, just as it should be - covered with barely sweetened whipped cream and then generously strewn with jewel coloured papaya, kiwi, strawberries and passion fruit. The fact that 6 of us easily polished all 10 inches of it is testament to its tastiness factor, but also to its lightness.
This version definitely has a little more "oomph" to it and would satisfy any manner of chocophile. Its chocolate based meringue deepens as it cooks providing the perfect crunchy base for the bittersweet chocolate mousse its served with. The mascarpone cheese in the mousse adds body while keeping the sweetness down. The entire thing is doused in custard, a break if you will from all that chocolate, but also a pleasing contrast in colour. I tend to love a little fruit with my chocolate desserts, so the creme anglaise also goes beautifully with the fresh strawberries I chose to serve alongside. With berries this beautiful there was simply no way they weren't going to weasel their way onto this plate!
This challenge wasn't one of my favourites, although that's no fault of the dish itself or the recipe. I just tend to be in the minority as someone who really doesn't consider a chocolate based dessert my desert island sweet of choice. But as with every one of these Daring Bakers challenges, I come away either learning something completely new or re discovering something in my repertoire. And this one was no different. I was excited to practice my cheese making abilities, and had the opportunity to make mascarpone cheese for the second time. And let me tell you a little secret: it's really not so difficult. In fact, its a shame the dairy industry has convinced us to buy it rather than make our own. The flavour is pure cream, as it should be without the oh so attractive xantham gum and stabilizers, and the effort is basically heating up cream, stirring and draining. That's it! Shh... don't tell!
I also was reminded of how much I really I do love a crispy base of meringue and that I don't make them enough. As an avid maker of ice cream, custards and sweet tart doughs, all of which require yolks only, I always have a problem of having too many egg whites cluttering up my freezer. Indeed I believe I have not been without a supply for 6 years! These are so easy to make, practically cooking themselves, and keep beautifully. The bonus is the use of large amounts of egg whites. So thank you Daring Bakers, for reminding me to keep making those meringues and pavlovas. Wouldn't you agree that nothing dresses up a simple scoop of ice cream or sorbet than this lovely edible dish? The chocolate sauce doesn't hurt either!
My Take on this dish and Recipe:
Ultimately I found this to be a great recipe with flavours that worked well together and tend to please a lot of people. It was easy to put together if all the elements were done ahead of time and proves to be quite impressive with less work than it seems. I followed it pretty closely but made few changes:
- I baked the meringues longer making them actually more of a meringue nest than a pavlova per se. This just means they are crispy all the way through. This makes them keep longer.
- I knew I'd be serving this with strawberries so I substituted some of my homemade Strawberry cordial for the Grand Marnier.
- The original recipe called for folding in some of the mascarpone cheese into the creme anglaise before drizzling. I found this unnecessary and chose to leave my creme anglaise in pure custard form. I also served it in a pool on the plate rather than drizzle on top.
- I served the entire thing with plenty of the strawberries in the photo that I'm currently gorging on. Without any fruit this dessert seemed far too chocolate-centric (yes there is such a thing) and heavy, some fresh berries brightened it up.
Chocolate Pavlovas with Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse
Chocolate Meringue3 large egg whites
½ cup plus 1 tbsp white granulated sugar
¼ cup confectioner’s (icing) sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 200º F degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment and set aside.
Put the egg whites in a bowl and whip until soft peaks form. Increase speed to high and gradually add granulated sugar about 1 tbsp at a time until stiff peaks form. (The whites should be firm but moist.)
Sift the confectioner’s sugar and cocoa powder over the egg whites and fold the dry ingredients into the white.
Fill a pastry bag with the meringue. Pipe the meringue into whatever shapes you desire. Alternatively, you could just free form your shapes and level them a bit with the back of a spoon.
Bake for 2-3 hours until the meringues become dry and crisp. Cool and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse
1 ½ cups cream
grated zest of 1 average sized lemon
9 ounces 72% dark chocolate, chopped
1 2/3 cups mascarpone cheese
pinch of nutmeg
2 tbsp Grand Marnier (or other liqueur)
Place the mascarpone, the remaining cup of cream and nutmeg in a bowl. Whip on low for a minute until the mascarpone is loose. Add the Grand Marnier and whip on medium speed until it holds soft peaks.
Mix about ¼ of the mascarpone mixture into the chocolate to lighten. Fold in the remaining mascarpone until well incorporated. Fill a pastry bag with the mousse. Again, you could just free form mousse on top of the pavlova.
1 cup milk
1 cup cream
1 vanilla bean, split or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
6 large egg yolks
6 tbsp sugar
Combine the milk, cream and vanilla in a saucepan over medium high heat, bringing the mixture to a boil. Take off the heat.Pour about ½ cup of the hot liquid into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly to keep from making scrambled eggs. Pour the yolk mixture into the pan with the remaining cream mixture and put the heat back on medium. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens enough to lightly coat the back of a wooden spoon. DO NOT OVERCOOK.
Remove the mixture from the heat and strain it through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until the mixture is thoroughly chilled, about 2 hours or overnight.
Pipe the mousse onto the pavlovas and drizzle with the creme anglais over the top. Serve with fresh fruit if desired.