Two layers of chocolate pavlova with crispy shells and soft centers layered with a dark chocolate ganache and a peanut butter whipped cream. The ultimate dessert!!!
Ingredients to make Chocolate Pavlova
My recipe is very loosely based on Nigella’s Chocolate Pavlova, the biggest change I make is in the sugar.
Egg whites: Large egg whites, each should weigh about 30 grams. Use fresh eggs, the ones in the carton, while tempting, won’t beat up as well as fresh. I know you’re wondering what to do with those egg yolks now – we’ll get there.
Sugar: Fine granulated sugar. I mention you can also use turbinado, which I like doing because it adds a little molasses-y flavor to the meringue which I quite like. Grind in a food processor (those granules in turbinado are big and will be difficult to dissolve in the egg whites so grinding them helps) first. Don’t sub with brown sugar, it has too much moisture.
Cocoa powder: I use a dutch process cocoa which makes the meringue turn nice and lightly chocolaty. You can use natural cocoa here too. Try to avoid a cocoa that has a high fat percentage.
Cornstarch & vinegar: these are both stabilizers that will help the pavlova stay soft inside.
Salt & Vanilla: For flavoring the pavlova. Use fine sea salt (table salt is too salty) and either pure vanilla extract or scrape a vanilla bean. Avoid imitation vanilla here.
How to make Chocolate Pavlova
Draw 8″ circles on two sheets of parchment paper. These circles serve as guides for you to spread the meringue out onto. You’ll place them pencil side down on a cookie sheet.
Blending the sugar, is only necessary if you are using turbinado or a granulated sugar that is big crystals (some organic brands tend to be large). If you are using fine granulated sugar, you can go straight to heating.
I used turbinado and so ground it in a food processor first, so it would dissolve more easily in the heating step.
The next step is from the swiss meringue method: the egg whites and sugar are gently heated over a double boiler (I use a glass bowl set over simmering water, the bottom of the bowl shouldn’t touch the water) and whisking until you can pinch the mixture and not detect any sugar granules. It takes a few minutes but as soon as you cannot find any undissolved granules, take it off the heat.
Now it’s time to whip. Pour the mix into the bowl of a stand mixer and turn the mixer on low. Gradually work the speed up to medium high and then let it whip until you are nearly at stiff peaks. At this point, add the vanilla, vinegar and salt then whip until stiff peaks.
Over the meringue sift the cornstarch and cocoa. Then fold it, making letter J’s. It’s okay if you have some streaks of cocoa or unmixed meringue. Spread it out onto the two prepared pans.
How to break a meringue
There are so many ways a meringue or a pavlova can go wrong, let’s cover some of them here so that you hopefully don’t find yourself in a broken meringue situation:
- The sugar didn’t dissolve fully before baking
You shouldn’t be able to detect *any* sugar granules in the meringue once you get to stiff peaks and stop whipping. You can rub some meringue between your fingers to detect it but at this point, it’s too late to do anything about it. The best way to avoid this situation is to make sure most of them are gone before you start whipping, which is why I use the swiss method where the sugar and egg whites are warmed together before whipping.
- It’s under or over-whipped
Stiff peaks! This is when you can remove the whisk from the stand mixer and turn it upside down (or rightside up I suppose) and the meringue holds shape, doesn’t droop. An under-whipped meringue will break and sugar might seep out in the oven. Similarly you don’t want to overdo it so as soon as you see the mix starting to turn glossy, check it.
- It deflated in the folding step
This one is too easy of a trap; basically to get the cornstarch and cocoa in you’ll need to as-gently-as-possible use a rubber spatula to very gently and carefully fold the mixture. You’ve just spent a good 10 minutes getting the sugar right and beating a ton of air into the meringue and don’t want to mess that up. Fold by making the letter J with the spatula – never stir, scraping the sides as needed. It’s okay if there are some unmixed streaks. You’ll know if you’ve deflated the meringue by how it shrinks in size from when you stopped whipping.
- It’s under-baked
The key to knowing when the meringue is done baking is by feeling it: it should feel dry when you gently touch it. If it’s still soft, it needs to keep baking.
- The oven is too hot
This will cause the meringue to crack very early in the baking. It’s not a huge problem but it can lead to it over-drying. In this case you may end up with more of a meringue than a pavlova. To be sure the oven is the right temperature, sometimes it’s handy to have a secondary thermometer.
- It was removed from the heat too early
The pavlova is fully baked, but still hot and you took it out of the oven. Oops! It should be left to dry out and cool down in there for another hour at least, but overnight is even better. If you can comfortably touch the pan with your fingers and the pavlova feels cool, it’s okay to remove.
Fillings and Toppings for the Pavlova Layers
Chocolate Ganache: For this you’ll need equal parts dark chocolate and heavy cream. If you use milk chocolate you’ll want to reduce the cream by about 25% to compensate for the added cream in the chocolate. The goal is to get a thick ganache that will set nicely on the pavlovas.
Tips on ganache: chop the chocolate very finely, you don’t want large bits that struggle to melt in the warmed cream. And warm the cream not until it boils but just until it’s hot to touch, bubbles at the sides. If it’s too hot you’ll burn the chocolate and the ganache will look separated and a little greasy. If this happens sometimes you can add some cold heavy cream and stir it and it will come back together in a shiny, glossy way.
Peanut butter mousse: I borrowed the recipe for this from my peanut butter chocolate pie because it was just SO GOOD. I did make it a tad fluffier here to be a bit more like whipped cream. You could also go with a plain whipped cream here or make it berry flavored by adding some powder from freeze dried berries.
What shall I do with the leftover egg yolks? I have six sam!
Alternatively, make an ice cream! Egg yolks make ice cream extra creamy.
Layered Chocolate Pavlova
- stand mixer to whip the meringue, can also use this for the mousse
- 6 large egg whites
- 320 g granulated sugar (or turbinado sugar, ground in a food processor) 1 1/2 cups
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon vinegar (plain, apple cider or red wine)
- 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch 1 1/2 teaspoons
- 2 tablespoons dutch process cocoa
- 200 g dark chocolate, 60-70% cocoa solids chips or a chopped bar
- 120 g heavy cream
Peanut Butter Mousse
- 235 g heavy cream
- 113 g cream cheese, half a brick softened
- 70 g smooth peanut butter, almond butter, hazelnut or cashew butter 1/4 cup
- pinch fine sea salt
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- nuts, for topping
- Preheat the oven to 250 F. Draw an 8 inch circle on two sheets of parchment paper and lay them (pencil side down) on a greased cookie sheet.
- If you are using turbinado sugar, grind it in a food processor until most of it is powder.
- Set a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water and pour in the egg whites and sugar. Whisk continuously as the sugar dissolves, this will take 4-7 minutes. When you can pinch the mixture with your fingers and can’t detect any sugar granules, it’s done.
- Pour it into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, set the speed to low and gradually crank it up to medium high. It will need to whip for 7-10 minutes, until it’s thick and glossy. Toward the end of whipping, pour in the vanilla, salt and vinegar. Stop when it hits stiff peaks; you can hold up the whisk and the meringue doesn’t droop.
- Over the meringue, sift cocoa powder and cornstarch and use a rubber spatula to gently fold it in, careful not to deflate the meringue. It’s okay if there are a couple of streaks of cocoa or unmixed meringue. Divide the meringue between the two prepared pans and use an offset spatula to smooth it down into one layer, keeping it in the shape of the circle you drew.
- Set the pans in the oven to bake (if your oven is large enough, side by side, if not one in the center and one on the bottom will work) for 2 hours. When you can open the oven (gently) and touch the pavlovas and they seem dry, shut off the oven. Let the pavlovas cool down and dry out in the oven for another 1-2 hours or overnight.
- When it’s time to remove them use an offset spatula to loosen them from the parchment paper.
- Make the chocolate ganache by scalding the heavy cream: cook it in a pot over medium heat until it just bubbles on the sides) then pour it over the chocolate and stir until you have a smooth ganache. Use the ganache to top while it’s still spreadable but not hot.
- For the Nut Mousse: Set all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the cream is thick. This won’t take long, 2 minutes at most. If it starts to look lumpy add a bit more heavy cream and stir it in until smooth.
- To build the layered pavlova: set the first layer of pavlova on a serving plate, spread half of the ganache over it into an even layer then spread half of the mousse on top and add nuts if you wish. The pavlova may crack under the weight of the ganache and cream, that’s ok. Stack the second layer of pavlova on top and repeat steps. Best served immediately after assembly. Leftovers can keep in an airtight container in the fridge.