A delicious, indulgent, grown-up dessert recipe – Crisp meringue topped with whipped cream, kirsch soaked cherries and chocolate shavings.
Since attending a chocolate making course recently I’ve been busy experimenting with it in the kitchen. One of my favourite chocolates (and therefore towards the top of my chocolate making list) is cherry liqueurs.
In order to attempt making these I bought myself a big jar of black cherries in kirsch. It turns out that for the chocolate mould I was using you could only fit a quarter of a cherry in each one. I also found that once opened you have to finish the jar in a week, so I was either going to have to make a ridiculous number of cherry liqueurs, or come up with something else to do with all of the cherries.
I decided that they would make a brilliant pavlova topping, and thought to make individual pavlovas as they look really elegant. I have many memories from my childhood of pavlova, as my mum makes delicious ones, and whenever we had a special occasion it would always be the dessert I’d hope she’d make (pavlova and a glass of schloer – I was a classy child!).
I know my mum always turns to Delia Smith for her meringue so I had a go at this french meringue recipe. However, when I removed the meringues from the oven I found that they’d cracked. They still tasted delicious, but they weren’t as neat and elegant as I’d intended. The cracks also made them very fragile, which meant they crumbled very easily making them difficult to decorate.
After a fair bit of experimenting, I’ve found a meringue recipe that has all the delicious flavour of the Delia meringues, but without the cracks.
How to make meringue that doesn’t crack
After plenty of research I found that there were a few things I’d been doing which could lead to cracking (in fact I couldn’t find a suggestion of why meringue cracked that I hadn’t done in my first attempt – oops).
To ensure that you have perfect looking as well as perfect tasting meringue then make sure you follow these tips…
- Whip you egg whites on a low speed – Start whipping the egg whites on a slow speed until they are foamy, then increase the speed to medium until they form a stiff peak. It’s tempting to whip the egg whites on a high speed as it’s quicker, but you’ll beat in larger air bubbles which will expend in the oven causing the meringue to crack.
- Cook your meringue on a low temperature – Delia’s recipes suggests cooking them at 140ºC for 30 minutes. I changed this to 100ºC for 1 hour and 45 minutes. Cooking the meringue at a higher temperature means that the outside hardens more quickly. The inside will rise very slightly pushing against the hard shell and cause it to crack.
- Cooking the meringues too quickly – when your meringues have cooked you need to leave them in the oven to cool without opening the door. In my impatience to see how they were looking I couldn’t help sneaking a quick peek, but by opening the door it cools the oven too quickly causing the meringues to crack. It can take several hours for the meringues to slowly cool. I prefer to make them just before I go to bed and then leave them to cool overnight (being asleep removes the temptation to peek!).
I’ve also seen advice online that says that meringues made with older egg whites are more likely to crack. However, I used older eggs whites (I’m stubborn and won’t open a new box of eggs until the last one is finished) and followed the other tips above and mine came out crack free.
One more very important piece of advice to help you get perfect, crack-free meringue. I really recommend you use bake-o-glide baking sheet liners to cook your meringues on. My childhood memories of delicious pavlova are also accompanied by the occasional memory of the meringue sticking to the baking parchment and my Mum trying to gently prise the meringue from the paper with varying degrees of success (sorry Mum x). I’ve use the bake-o-glide sheets for every batch of my meringues and regardless of how cracked they were them came off the sheet with no effort at all.
How to shape your mini pavlovas
There are all sorts of ways you can shape you mini pavlovas, from simply making a circle with the back of a spoon, to carefully piping your meringue into the perfect shape.
I’ve gone for a slightly rustic, swirly design.
To shape your meringues like mine…
- Carefully spoon a quarter of your mixture onto the baking sheet and use the back of a tablespoon to shape it into a circle.
- Use a teaspoon to carefully push some of the meringue from the centre towards the edges to make a nest shape.
- Use the tip of something sharp (I used my cake testing skewer) to make small swirls in the top of the meringue. You only want to use the very tip to really make sure the swirls stand out.
To make these black forest pavlovas you’ll need…
- Weighing scales
- Electric mixer with a whisk attachment. I use my kitchenaid stand mixer, but any mixer with variable speed should work fine. You can also whisk by hand if you really want to, but you’ll need pretty strong muscles!
- A bake-o-glide baking sheet liner. If you don’t have one then any non-stick baking parchment should work.
- Baking sheet
- A peeler – to create dark chocolate shavings
Black forest pavlova nutritional information per serving
This is the estimated nutritional information per pavlova. Please refer to my guide to Charlotte’s Lively Kitchen nutritional information if you want to learn more about how this is calculated.