pavlova. paaavloooooova. doesn't it sound fancy and delicious and elegant and maybe a little exotic? that's pretty much how it tastes, too. also, it's fruity and fresh and comes together really quickly, but looks like a million bucks. thus, it is the perfect summer dessert.
pavlovas basically consist of a large meringue shell with whipped cream and berries sunning themselves on top. they're named after russian ballerina anna pavlova, so you needn't start thinking of drooling dogs, although they are apt to inspire anticipatory salivating when you behold their resplendency.
a meringue, as you are no doubt aware, is basically whipped egg whites 'n' stuff. i had a bunch of leftover egg whites after making ice cream, so this was a great way to use them up. i had frozen them and then just let them come to room temperature before beating them and it worked a treat. first things first - preheat the oven to 350 (~ 180 celsius).
i based the recipe off the incomparable nigella lawson's, but had to adjust a couple of things due to too many egg whites and an inability to keep from tinkering. i had 8 egg whites, so i upped the other things accordingly.
i also apparently lost all my math skills somewhere along the line, because i added more chocolate than i should have. it was still good, and it made for a nice deeply chocolatey bottom to the meringue, but when i make it again, i'll use less - it kind of overpowered the berries and cream. and that is unacceptable.
when you make a meringue, it won't get properly whipped-y unless there's no yolk and no grease on the bowl or beater.so first make sure your egg whites are at room temperature and that they don't have any bits of yolk in them. actually, i just looked this up and there are differences of opinion on the room temperature/cold issue. so i guess do whatever? mine were room temperature and they were fine.
the no-oil/fat thing is pretty universally acknowledged, though. you need to use a metal or glass bowl because it's really difficult to get plastic clean enough. so just put the eggs in there and turn the mixer on medium for a minute or so, then increase the speed to high and let the whites mix and fluff for perhaps 3-5 minutes or until they form soft peaks. here's a little visual of soft vs other peaks.
then add the sugar a little at a time while still mixing away. keep on a'mixin' until the soft peaks become stiff and shiny. pretty! then you can fold in the cocoa and chopped chocolate and vinegar. vinegar - weird, i know. apparently it works to stabilize the meringue and keep it all together, much like cream of tartar, which a lot of meringue recipes call for. but i don't think anyone really keeps cream of tartar on hand (i certainly don't), so vinegar is a much easier substitute.
for folding everything in, you just want to do it gently so that the fluff doesn't evaporate. here's a video that shows how, but basically just use a rubber spatula and do it softly so that things are mixed properly but you don't lose the air that you just added to the egg whites.
then just flop it gently onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and spread it flattish to maybe an inch thick or a little less. you could also make baby individual ones, which would be awfully pretty and fancy. but a big one is large, in charge, and impressive. so do what you like. the size won't change too much during cooking, but if you make smaller ones, try to get at least a couple of inches between each.
then bake it! you've preheated the oven, but now as soon as you put the meringue in, you need to turn it down to 300 (150 celsius). then just forget about it for a little bit and go about your day. perhaps you could paint your nails or do a jigsaw puzzle. just kidding! jigsaw puzzles are the worst. read a book or something.
after about an hour and 15 minutes or perhaps a bit more, it should look like the above - it doesn't matter if it gets all cracky - that's part of the charm. rustic! basically it should be dry on the top but you can tell that its insides hold softer chocolatey secrets.
let that puppy cool and wash your mixing bowl so you can make some delicious whipped yogurt-cream. also put your mixing bowl and mixing whisk attachment thingy in the freezer because whipped cream is kind of the opposite of meringue in that it works best if everything is quite cold. then just mix up 2 cups of heavy cream on high, then add maybe 1/3 cup of powdered sugar when it starts getting whipped-y. you really don't need much sugar here, so just use a little and taste and adjust accordingly. powdered sugar is supposed to keep it more stable, but you can use regular sugar if you're going to eat it right away. once the cream is sufficiently whipped (soft peaks or whatever texture you like - you know what whipped cream looks like), fold in 1/3 - 1/2 cup whole greek yogurt. you can actually skip this if you like, but i think the tangy note that you get with the yogurt really adds a lot to the final result. otherwise you can just use boring old delicious freshly whipped cream.
finally, it's berry time! i used raspberries AND blackberries, because it was the fourth of july and it seemed more patriotic, but probably any berries would be good. maybe not mulberries. those things are weird.
when you're ready to eat, pile the meringue with clouds of whipped cream and hearty handfuls of juicy berries. then you can shave some chocolate over the top if you like. honestly, i am not the most chocolate-oriented person, so i would probably skip that next time, but it was devoured with aplomb nonetheless, so whatevs.
whether you accompany it with bb gun target practice in a sunny portland backyard (as we did) is up to you.
8 egg whites
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
4 tablespoons sifted cocoa powder (i normally don't sift, but that stuff gets lumpy!)
1 1/2 teaspoons vinegar (i used red wine vinegar, but i don't think it matters much as long as it isn't like tarragon vinegar or something weird)
~ 2 - 3 ounces chocolate, chopped (again, i used more like 3, but would use less next time)
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup sifted powdered sugar (see: cocoa/lumpiness otherwise)
1/3 - 1/2 cup greek yogurt
lots and lots of berries! (i used maybe 3 or 4 cups. this is not a time for precise measurements)