BLACKBERRY, CHOCOLATE AND HAZELNUT PAVLOVA

Autumn berry and chocolate pavlova

Traditionally I’ve eaten pavlovas loaded with summer fruits, both in its unadulterated form and as an Eton Mess (delicious and a great way to disguise a broken pav). They’re a bit of a hallmark of a British summer, and in Australia they are a Christmas staple – we once had one dyed green and shaped like a Christmas tree which was quite something. My grandma often makes them pink too, because who doesn’t love a big pink fluffy meringue?

This version is definitely more grown up with richer, more sophisticated flavours – tangy blackberries, rich dark chocolate and a dusting of roasted hazelnuts. The layered coulis and chocolate make this a dinner party stunner that’s easy to make, quick to assemble but, crucially, looks impressive. Winner.

This recipe is adapted from Leiths ‘How to Cook’ recipe for a classic pavlova and the toppings were inspired by those made in class by Jane, a teacher at Leiths.

To give this pav a seasonal update you could top it with poached rhubarb, blood orange segments and pomegranate. That might be one to try out this weekend…

Serves 6

Cooking time: 1 hour: Hands on time: 25 minutes

Ingredients

Pavlova base 

  • 4 egg whites

  • 200g caster sugar

  • 1tsp cornflour

  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar or lemon juice

Blackberry Coulis

  • 1 x small punnet blackberries

  • 30g caster sugar (or to taste, sweetness varies)

  • 50ml water

Toppings 

  • 50g good quality dark chocolate (I like Divine 70% dark chocolate)

  • A handful of hazelnuts

  • 300ml double cream

  • 2 tbsp icing sugar

  • 1 x small punnet blackberries

Kit:

  • Handheld electric whisk or stand mixer

  • Baking tray

  • Mixing bowl – if you have one, use a large metal bowl rather than a plastic one, this is because any grease or dirt will stop your egg whites whisking properly

  • A spatula

Method

  1. Heat your oven to 140C/gas mark 1. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment or a silicone non-stick mat if you have one (if not, get one – you can reuse it for years, think of the environment!)

  2. Make sure your bowl and beaters are super clean and dry, then start whisking the egg whites on a slow speed until they look foamy

  3. Once they are, turn the speed up and keep whisking, moving the bowl around clockwise, rather than the beaters in the bowl – this will whisk the eggs thoroughly without overbeating or flinging your mix up the sides of the bowls

  4. Whip to stiff peaks – the trick my mum taught me is they are ready when you can turn the bowl upside down over your head and they don’t fall out. This works, but you can also hold the (turned OFF) beaters upside down and see if the egg peak is stiff or wobbles over – beat more if its the latter

  5. Whisk in 1tbsp of the sugar and whisk until the mix is at stiff peak consistency again

  6. Repeat this three more times, so you’ve incorporated 4tbsp sugar and got the mix back to stiff peaks each time. Then you can pour in the rest of the sugar while whisking to combine

  7. Add the cornflour and white wine vinegar and whisk until just incorporated

  8. Then pile the meringue into an approximately 20cm mound – you can draw a circle on the underside of your baking parchment if you want to do this rather than go by eye. make a dip in the middle with the back of a large metal spoon or spatula  -this is where the cream and fruit will go later

  9. Bake for 1 hour or until the meringue is firm to touch and can be lifted (gently!) off the parchment/silicone mat – meanwhile prep your fillings

  10. Take out of the oven and leave to cool

Coulis

  1. Put all the ingredients in a small pan and heat gently until the berries are bursting and soft

  2. Have a taste – you can add more sugar if its not sweet enough, or after its off the heat stir in a little vanilla or lemon for acidity depending what sort of taste you’d like

  3. Leave to cool a bit before blitzing in a blender, Magimix or with a stick blender

  4. Sieve to remove seeds and leave to cool

Toppings

  1. Put the hazelnuts onto a small baking sheet and toast in a 180C oven for 7-8 minutes – keep an eye on them that they don’t burn. these can be left whole, roughly chopped or blitzed very briefly if you’d like them finely chopped

  2. Gently melt the chocolate in the microwave in 20 second bursts until just melted, or use a bain marie – a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, without the bottom touching the water to gently melt the chocolate

  3. Add the icing sugar to the double cream and gently whip with a handheld mixer – you want it softly whipped, not turning into cheese, so that it is just holding its shape and can be spooned over the pavlova

Assembly

  1. Once the pav is totally cool, transfer it very carefully to a serving platter – it might be easier to lift the paper and then gently pull it out from underneath, or use a couple of fish slices/spatulas to lift it out. They are fragile.

  2. Spoon the cream into the dip in the middle of the meringue and drizzle over the coulismelted chocolatechopped hazelnuts and whole blackberries 

  3. You can put leftover coulis and chocolate on the table for people to drizzle extra over their puddings. People always love extra sauce..

Gemma Scott