Chocolate Pavlovas with Crème Fraîche & Raspberry Compote

Early Summer 2011
food and drink

BY: James Chatto & Anna Olson

This is about as rich as a pavlova can get. Cutting into a chocolate meringue reveals a darker chocolate interior and the subtle tartness of the crème fraîche balances with the gently cooked raspberry topping. Humidity impacts cook time, thus accounting for the wide time span indicated.

CREME FRAICHE 1 cup (250 mL) whipping cream
1 tbsp (15 mL) buttermilk
2 tbsp (25 mL) sugar

PAVLOVAS 6 large egg whites at room temperature
1/2 tsp (2 mL) cream of tartar
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) sugar
3 tbsp (45 mL) Dutch process (alkalized) cocoa powder
2 tsp (10 mL) cornstarch
1 tbsp (15 mL) balsamic vinegar
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract

RASPBERRY COMPOTE ⅓ cup (75 mL) sugar
1/2 tsp (7 mL) cornstarch
2 cups (500 mL) fresh or frozen raspberries
1/4 tsp (1 mL) ground allspice

1 For the crème fraîche, stir the whipping cream and buttermilk together and pour it into a plastic or glass container (a mason jar or re-sealable plastic container works well).Place this container into a bowl and fill the bowl with hot tap water just to the level of the cream. Set this in a warm, draught-free place to culture for 24 to 48 hours (the outside heat and humidity will affect how long this takes— more heat and humidity lessens the time). Check the fragrance for a fresh, citrus aroma and chill the crème fraîche without stirring for about 3 hours until set. To use, spoon off the crème fraîche, leaving the liquid whey at the bottom (to dispose of) and stir the sugar into the crème fraîche. Chill until ready to assemble.

2 Preheat the oven to 275°F (140°C). Cut 2 sheets of parchment paper to fit 2 baking trays.Trace 4 circles, each 4 inches (10cm) across, onto each sheet using a marker, then place the sheets onto the baking trays, marker-side down (so that the ink does not transfer onto the pavlovas).

3 Whip the egg whites and cream of tartar until they are foamy, then slowly add the sugar and continue whipping on high speed until the whites hold a stiff peak when the beaters are lifted (the whites will be thick and glossy). Sift the cocoa powder and cornstarch over the whites and fold in, then fold in the vinegar and vanilla quickly. Dollop the meringue, a generous cupful, onto each circle drawn onto the parchment. Gently press an indent into the centre of each, but don’t spread or work the meringue too much. Bake the pavlovas for 75 to 90 minutes, until they are dry on the outside (they will expand a little as they bake, and as they cool the crust and soft center will separate a little). You can check the doneness by lifting the pavlova—if it lifts away from the parchment easily, it is done. Let the pavlovas cool to room temperature, then store in an airtight container until ready to serve. Prepare them no more than a day ahead of serving.

4 For the raspberry compote, stir the sugar and cornstarch together and add this to a saucepot with 1 cup (250 mL) of the raspberries and the allspice. Bring this to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Once fully simmering, remove from the heat and stir in the remaining raspberries.

5 Assemble the pavlovas immediately before serving. Place a meringue onto each plate.Stir the crème fraîche to smooth, then dollop 2 tbsp (25 mL) onto each meringue. Top the crème fraîche with raspberry compote and serve.

Makes 8 individual desserts