One of the phrases I hear on a relatively regular basis from my husband is “you never make that for me” – generally deployed in response to me recalling a distant memory of a long-forgotten culinary experiment that he likes the sound of but which I am yet to repeat. Not being one to disappoint (or be proven wrong) it’s rarely long before I’ve taken the feedback on board and headed into the kitchen…
The last time those six words were uttered in my general direction the result was the delightfully light Twice-Baked Cheese Soufflés that I made a few weeks back, and once again it’s whipped egg whites that caused them to be repeated. I can’t remember why I was talking about meringue but within minutes I’d promised to make a pavlova when we next had friends coming round for dinner – my only caveat being I wasn’t going to make a simple one topped with sliced fruit and cream because (a) it’s a bit boring and (b) this isn’t the late 1980s.
The meringue used in this recipe should give you a crisp, light outside with a soft, pillowy marshmallow texture inside, which is just how I like mine to be served, but if you like it more or less chewy you can play around with the sugar content to suit. I suspect that everyone has different expectations of their meringue and I won’t force mine on anyone. It’s also a fairly sweet meringue so you want to match it with a robust flavour that will save it from becoming too overwhelming – a sharp fruit sauce would probably be good but I was determined to use chocolate in some form. I just had to work out how…
The answer came in a flash when I opened our drinks cabinet and saw a big bottle of Bailey’s and everything suddenly dropped into place! My mind raced back to Ben and Jerry’s Dublin Mudslide ice-cream which I haven’t seen for years but I remember being the frozen version of an Irish Coffee or a Mudslide cocktail – both made with Irish Cream, Coffee and Chocolate, but neither too sweet.
Admittedly getting the balance of flavours right took a couple of goes – as you can easily go too heavy on the liquor and kill off everything else – but the end result is pretty much perfect.
Yes, it’s rich, yes, it’s sweet but it’s also very grown-up and has enough of a coffee kick to bring everything else back into line. What better way to finish off a meal than with a digestif and dessert in one?
- 6 Egg Whites from large, free-range eggs
- 375 g Caster Sugar
- 1 tsp Cornflour
- 200 ml Double Cream
- 125 g Good Quality Dark Chocolate around 60% cocoa should be fine, don't go too strong
- ½ tsp Instant Coffee dissolved in ½ tsp water
- 400 ml Double Cream
- 2 tbsp Icing Sugar
- 2 tbsp Bailey's Irish Cream Liquer
- 2 tsp Cocoa Powder
- Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper.
- Put the egg whites into a very clean, grease free bowl and whisk with an electric mixer until they form soft, fluffy peaks.
- Start to add the caster sugar one spoon at a time, continuing to whisk until the mixture turns glossy white and forms near-stiff peaks. Sprinkle over the cornflour and carefully fold it through the mixture.
- Spoon the meringue onto the prepared baking sheet and form into whichever shape you prefer - making sure to add a bit of texture with the spoon or a palette knife.
- Put into the pre-heated oven and immediately turn it down to 150°C. Cook for one hour - don't be tempted to open the door, just leave it be,
- After an hour turn off the oven and open the door - allowing the meringue to cool on the baking sheet in the oven. If it cools too quickly it could crack more and fall apart.
- Once it's cooled remove it from the oven and move on to the next steps. If you're not ready to assemble the pavlova at this stage you can store it in an airtight container for a day or so.
- Grate the chocolate into a bowl (or chop it into small pieces if you'd rather).
- Put the cream and coffee mixture into a small saucepan and heat to just under its boiling point.
- Pour the cream over the chocolate and stir well until you have a velvety sauce. Leave to cool - it will get a bit thicker but this ratio of cream to chocolate should see it remain pourable.
- Pour the cream into a large bowl and whisk with an electric mixer until it starts to thicken.
- Sift in the icing sugar and cocoa powder before whisking further until both are incorporated into the cream and it's turned a pale brown colour.
- Add in the Irish Cream and whisk until the cream is light and fluffy. Check the flavour before serving - you can always add a little more Irish Cream if you want a bit more of a boozy kick, but it's easy to go too far!
- Put the meringue onto a plate or cake stand. Spoon a generous amount of the chocolate sauce over the base and spread out towards the edges. Heap the whipped cream over the top and then garnish with a little more grated chocolate.