The coronavirus pandemic has taken a lot of things from us collectively. Lives, health, daily freedoms, jobs, money… Some of these things are obviously more important than others. One of the things that it has taken is simultaneously trivial and powerful – our celebrations. No one is dying for lack of a birthday party, but celebrations with family and friends make our lives so much more fulfilling! I have at least four friends who’ve had to move their weddings. We sang Happy Birthday to my grandfather from his yard. A friend (successfully) defended his dissertation from his home computer. What a weird world! And then there are the spring holidays… This year, April hosts some major ones. Passover started this past week, Easter is tomorrow, and Ramadan begins at the end of the month. It’s natural to want to celebrate these holidays like “normal,” but I hope people realize that making exceptions from social distancing for holidays is exactly what can ruin all the progress we’ve made. There is some evidence that the curve is starting to flatten, but now is exactly the wrong time to get complacent. So we need to think of new ways to celebrate. Normally, we would spend tomorrow with my family, eating lots of food, watching the littles hunt for eggs, and competing in the legendary family egg toss competition. Since that’s not happening, cooking something a little extra special is my favorite and chosen celebratory option.
I’ve wanted to make a pavlova for a long time. The combination of an accessible recipe in April’s Cookbook Club selection (Barefoot Contessa at Home: Everyday Recipes You’ll Make Over and Over Again: A Cookbook, by Ina Garten) and looking for a culinary celebration to substitute for my family celebration led us here. I assumed it was more complicated than it actually is, though you do have to pay attention to detail a bit here. Even though there are a bunch of layers and components, the hands on time is actually quite reasonable. The hedgehog helped me make it today while in her carrier. The finicky part is the meringue base of the pavlova, so follow the directions closely. I learned today that both Australia and New Zealand claim the creation of the pavlova, a dessert that is beloved in both countries. I also learned that it probably doesn’t actually originate in either. Either way, it’s a delicious dessert, that looks and feels just a little bit special, which is exactly what I needed right now!
Berry Pavlova with Chocolate Drizzle
(Adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home, by Ina Garten)
- 4 large egg whites, room temperature
- Pinch of salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 tsp cornstarch
- 1 tsp white wine vinegar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- Chocolate Drizzle
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder
- 1/2 cup sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 1/4 cup cold water
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Whipped Cream
- 1/2 cup cold heavy cream
- 1/2 tbsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup blackberries (or more)
- 1/2 cup raspberries (or more)
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Place parchment paper on a large baking sheet. In pencil, trace the outline of a 9 inch plate, and then flip the parchment paper over.
- Use a stand mixer on high with the whisk attachment to whisk the eggs whites and salt for ~1 minute, until thickening. Then slowly, but steadily add the sugar, still whisking on high. Beat until glossy, stiffening peaks form, ~2 minutes.
- Shake the cornstarch onto the mixture and pour in the vinegar and vanilla. Use a spatula to gently fold it all together.
- Pour the meringue out onto the parchment paper and smooth with the spatula until you have a disk that fills the penciled-in circle.
- Bake for 1 1/2 hours. At this point, turn the oven off, but don’t remove the meringue for at least another hour.
- Meanwhile, make the chocolate sauce. Sift together the cocoa powder and sugar. Then stir together in a saucepan with the water until well-combined.
- Over medium-high heat, bring the chocolate sauce to a boil. Then immediately lower the heat and cook at a simmer for just 1 minute, stirring continuously. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Allow to sit and thicken. (The chocolate sauce can be made ahead of time and rewarmed when assembling and serving.)
- Make the whipped cream immediately before assembling. Again using your stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the cream at medium speed until it begins to thicken. At this point, slowly add the sugar, followed by the vanilla. Continue beating until it is firm.
- To assemble, flip the meringue base onto a serving platter. Spread whipped cream on top. Place the berries on top of the whipped cream, leaving a slight edge. And then top with a drizzle of chocolate. Serve immediately.