Once upon a time there was a Russian ballerina named Anna.
She was so dainty, delicate and light on her toes, that when she danced on a tour through Australia and New Zealand, they came up with a dessert to honor her – a dessert that was light, feminine and delicate, but sweet and hearty at the same time.
Have you ever had a meringue cookie? Well, Pavlovas are a fancy, gooey and larger version of the meringue cookie, with a crispy shell and a soft cloud like, slightly chewy interior. They can be filled with anything, but berries and cream seem to be the most popular and authentic way it’s served down under. I’m willing to bet that in order to remain light and delicate on her toes, Anna wasn’t eating too many cream filled pavlovas, and boy was she missing out!
If someone named a dessert after me..I’d be scarfing it down like a champ, as long as they rolled me to each destination. Here’s a good question – If given the choice, which would you prefer: a dish, whether it be sweet or savory, created for and named after you, or a song written for and about you?
The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers’ to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard.
At first, I wanted to make an authentic pavlova, but, of course, with a twist because it ain’t me if it ain’t got a twist. Since I’d never made a pavlova before, but know my way around all kinds of meringue preparations, I felt pretty confident I’d be able to pull it off. Thanks to my pal, Audax, who provided the Daring Bakers with an authentic recipe that everyone was raving about, I was able to do just that.
However, Francois Payard is one of my favorite pastry chefs, so I had to make the recipe from his book that was provided to us. Every component, word for word would be emulated – especially since his lovely creations cost an arm, a leg and maybe an eyeball. His showroom, which is a mouth-watering and gorgeous feast for the eyes, is one of the prettiest patisseries in NYC.
Perfect Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse…..before I murdered it.
Much better the second time around.
Since I didn’t dig into this challenge until the last minute, things didn’t go as planned. I decided to bake the chocolate meringue in a tart pan. Great idea, right? Well, sort of. You see, one characteristic of a perfect pavlova is that the crispy outer shell cracks and crumbles a bit after being baked and cooled. Yes, this is a good thing palate wise, but not a good thing aesthetically, which counts when you’re a food blogger. I got the perfect tart pan ridges, but as it should have, it separated and crumbled a bit, so it really didn’t look like the meringue tart shell I was hoping for.
Where I really screwed up was on the chocolate mascarpone mousse. Initially, I didn’t screw up, since it turned out perfect – silky, creamy chocolate heaven. BUT- I made it a day ahead and refrigerated it, so when it came time to assemble my dessert, the mousse was firm (due to the mascarpone cheese solidifying in the cold fridge, which is normal). I didn’t have time to let it come to room temperature so I could stir it gently back into its luscious, silky self – so I decided to take a beater to it, momentarily forgetting about the mascarpone cheese in it..
Mascarpone cheese breaks when over beaten, and it had already been beaten lightly prior to refrigerating it. The extra beating, which was a lot of beating since I needed it soft for piping, turned my smooth and silky mousse into a grainy mess. It still tasted great and was surprisingly smooth on the tongue, but it looked like shit. Well, I had planned to cover it with fruit anyway, so now I just needed to cover all of it with fruit, and loads of fruit!
By this time I’m frustrated, so I made a mess of the fruit. Instead of the perfectly symmetrical slices of papaya and mango that I envisioned, in a beautiful concentric circle, I ended up slicing away haphazardly, slimy fingers squishing the fruit, leaving me with uneven chunks and slices that I layered on the tart sloppily. Due to the frustration, shoved a piece here, and another piece there, making it even worse. In the meantime, my grainy mousse started to ooze over the side, encapsulating the meringue tart shell like The Blob with a sweet tooth.
My chocolate pavlova was now drooping and sinking – exactly like the robot kid’s face in AI- Artificial Intelligence when he ate spinach (I think I’m the only person in the world who actually liked that movie).
Even after all of this, and even though I’m not a huge chocolate on chocolate person, it still tasted great, and the mascarpone cream with the creme anglaise base was to die for. I’m dumping the leftover cream in my ice cream maker as soon as I get this tardy post up!
I had a much better ‘aesthetic’ result with the authentic pavlova recipe, although letting them sit overnight mottled the texture a little. I suppose you could say they sort of shriveled. I made snowballs, and not just any snowballs, but pearl lustre dusted snowballs filled with white chocolate chantilly cream, passion fruit curd, little spheres of papaya and champagne mango (use a melon baller), which is the best mango ever. and chopped pistachio. I used a regular sized ice cream scoop to form perfect, fluffy, glossy meringue balls, pressing the back of a slightly wet spoon into each ball to make a well for fillings.
For the pearly look (which you can’t really see in the photos), I mixed some pearl lustre dust with a little almond extract and brushed it lightly over each ball after they baked and cooled. Come to think of it, I don’t think the almond extract was needed because some kind of chemical reaction between the meringue and extract took place, giving my balls a pinkish hue. Brushing it on dry probably would have been better.
Live and learn.
For the recipe for Francois Payard’s Chocolate Pavlovas with Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse and Mascarpone Cream, click HERE, To see the lovely creations by other Daring bakers, click on the links to their blogs, HERE.
Since fresh passion fruit is currently unavailable in my area, I used the above frozen passion fruit pulp. It lent extraordinary flavor to the curd. As fresh as you can get with frozen.
- 1½ cups (355 mls) heavy cream
- 9 ounces (255 grams) good quality chocolate, chopped
- 1⅔ cups (390 mls) mascarpone cheese (I've made this using cream cheese instead of the mascarpone and it's just as good - use 1 plus ½ bar of cream cheese (12 oz), softened)
- pinch of nutmeg
- Place ½ cup of the heavy cream in a saucepan over medium high heat. Once warm, add the chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and let sit at room temperature until cool.
- Put the mascarpone, the remaining cup of cream and nutmeg in a bowl. Whip on low speed for 1 minute until the mascarpone is loose. Do not overbeat, as the mascarpone will break. Mix about a quarter of the mascarpone mixture into the chocolate mixture to lighten it. Fold in the remaining mascarpone until well incorporated.
- Refrigerate until you’re ready to assemble your pavlovas or ready to serve as a dessert on its own. If you refrigerate it for a long time..the mousse will firm up. Do not beat it. Let it come to room temperature then stir it gently and serve.
Oven Dry for Pavolva Snowballs: 1 hour
- 4 egg whites
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch, sifted
- passion fruit curd (recipe follows)
- white chocolate chantilly cream (recipe follows)
- 6 to 9 balls of fresh papaya -use a melon scoop
- 6 to 9 balls of fresh mango - use a melon scoop
- chopped pistachios
- 6 large egg yolks
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup fresh passion fruit pulp, OR frozen passion fruit pulp
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 ounces best-quality white chocolate, very finely chopped
- 1 cup heavy cream
- In a clean, dry bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt until frothy. Start adding the sugar, ¼ cup at a time until you've used it all up. Keep beating until stiff peaks have formed.
- Add the vinegar, vanilla and sifted cornstarch and just beat until it is incorporated. Preheat the oven to 225F.
- On a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet, using an ice cream scoop, scoop 6 to 9 (depending on size of your scoop) meringue snowballs of the meringue onto the sheet, about 1-inch apart. Wet a spoon, and with the back of the spoon, press the top of each ball to make wells, cleaning off and wetting the spoon for each one.
- Bake for 1 hour, then turn off the oven and let sit in the closed oven for another hour.
- When ready to serve, fill each snowball with passion fruit curd and white chocolate chantilly cream, then top each one with 1 papaya ball and one mango ball. Sprinkle with chopped pistachios.
- In the top of a double boiler, whisk egg yolks, sugar, hot juice, salt, and lemon Juice.
- Cook over boiling water 8-10 minutes, stirring constantly, or until mixture thickens and you can draw a line through the back of a spoon. Remove from heat. Cool 3-4 minutes, stirring several times.
- Stir in butter, one tablespoon at a time, until melted in. Press plastic wrap on top of curd and let come to room temperature. Chill for several hours in the fridge for best results.
- Heat the cream on in a sauce pan over medium heat until it starts to boil. Pour over chopped white chocolate in a bowl. Let sit for 1 minute.
- Stir the cream and white chocolate until combined and no lumps remain. Let come to room remperature than cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge until cold.
- Whip the cream until soft peaks form.