Chocolate and espresso pavlova

Image of chocolate and espresso pavlova to illustrate a recipe from Safia Shakarchi

An indulgent Christmas dessert that could easily grace a dinner table at any time of year.
By Safia Shakarchi

This year I’m giving coffee centre stage on the Christmas dessert table. I firmly believe coffee shouldn’t just be an afterthought to accompany dessert, it should be the dessert – but aside from that, it just makes sense. That sofa is practically asking you to nap on it after you’ve eaten an entire month’s worth of food for Christmas lunch, so you’re going to need all the caffeine you can get to survive more games, more wine and, well, more food.

Not only does this pavlova have an indulgent chocolatey caffeine kick, it’s also the perfect make-ahead showstopper for any dinner party over the festive period. You can bake the bases up to three days in advance and keep them in an airtight container, then when you’re ready to serve it simply roast the grapes, whip the cream and assemble… leaving you more time for you to eat, drink and be merry!

For the meringue
6 egg whites (240g)
480g caster sugar
1tbsp cocoa powder

For the roasted grapes
500g red or black grapes
2tbsp golden caster sugar
1tsp fennel seeds, lightly crushed

For the espresso cream
600ml double cream
1tbsp icing sugar
4tbsp strong brewed espresso or
1tsp instant espresso powder

To serve
Dark chocolate
Edible gold leaf (optional)

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Preheat the oven to 200°C and line a baking tray with parchment paper. To make the meringue, pour the sugar on to the baking tray and pop in the oven for five to six minutes. When the sugar goes in, start whisking the egg whites on a low speed. As bubbles form, gradually increase the speed and continue to whisk until the whites form stiff peaks.

Remove the sugar from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 120°C. Slowly and carefully, add the sugar to the egg whites one tablespoon at a time, allowing the mixture to come back to stiff peaks each time. Once all the sugar has been added, whisk at high speed for five to 10 minutes to allow the sugar to dissolve.

Line two baking trays with parchment paper and draw a 20cm circle on each. Gently swirl the cocoa powder through the meringue with a spatula. Dollop half the mixture into the middle of each circle and spread out with the back of a spoon or palette knife. Bake for approximately 90 minutes, or until the bottom of the meringue pulls away from the baking paper.

Lightly crush the fennel seeds in a pestle and mortar, and mix with the grapes and sugar. Set to one side. Remove the pavlovas from the oven and leave to cool. Increase the oven temperature to 180°C. Spread the grapes on a parchment-lined baking tray and roast for 15 to 20 minutes until bursting and syrupy.

While the grapes are roasting, whip the cream with the icing sugar and espresso. Remove the grapes from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Scrape the edge of a bar of dark chocolate with a vegetable peeler to create chocolate curls.

To assemble, spread half the espresso cream on one of the pavlovas. Stack the other on top and spread with the remaining cream. Top with the grapes and any syrup they may have. Finish with chocolate curls and edible gold leaf.

This feature appeared in issue 04 of Caffeine magazine Australia

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