Nigella's cappuccino pavlova

For the most part, we've been enjoying a lovely spell of Spring weather.  It almost makes the memories of all the snowfall and storms of the winter fade away.  Apart from (and despite of) seasonal allergies plaguing the fellas in my household, it's been a beautiful time to be outside and to even fire up that grill!  The kitchen is my domain but my husband is in charge of outdoor cooking.  But since I am the "Commander in Sweets" at my house, I like to make sure we end our meal on a sweet note. 
To cap off our recent inaugural barbecue of the season, I made a pavlova - but not the typical kind topped with fruit.  Maybe that would've been an appropriate way to go given the season and warmer temperature but I'm just naturally drawn towards deeper, darker flavors.  So I made Nigella Lawson's cappuccino pavlova, topped with just a bit of whipped cream and a sprinkle of chocolate shavings.   You could very well serve it with a scoop of ice cream on the side and I have to admit, I did just that.

I've said it before, I'm a big fan of Nigella's.  I love her wit and, above all else, her wholehearted love of food and eating.  I also appreciate her relaxed style - anyone who has no qualms about using paper napkins at a dinner party is my kind of girl!  I watch her shows all the time...when Hurricane Sandy came along and we were without cable connection for over 2 weeks (not to mention virtually housebound because of the lack of gas), I took to watching episodes of Nigellissima via youtube on my iPhone!   Sounds crazy, I know, but watching the shows made me feel a little more sane somehow.   And the few episodes I caught were really good! I wish I'd been able to watch more but for whatever reason, the shows disappeared after a few days and I moved on...
This cappuccino pavlova recipe comes from Nigellisma, the cookbook that's filled with Italian inspired recipes.  Looking through it, I was taken aback (in a good way) by how modern it looks compared to Nigella's other cookbooks.  There's a photo of every dish (a huge selling point for me) and I enjoyed ogling over the luscious pastas and wicked-looking desserts.  This pavlova jumped out at me possibly for the fact that my fellas enjoy coffee flavored desserts and because it's so easy to put together.  With the warmer weather, ice cream making has begun in this household, and that means leftover white eggs to deploy for projects like this one.

I scaled down the recipe by half and what you see here is a 6-inch version that's better suited for a small group.  This being my first pavlova, I was a little worried about nailing the texture - achieving a soft and slightly chewy pavlova rather than a teeth-shattering kind of crispy meringue.  Luckily, it worked!  I think a touch of vinegar does the trick.  While the sides may be crisp and crackly to the point of breakage at the lightest touch, the center is reassuringly soft and almost marshmallow-like, with a chewier edge around the sides.   
I'm no expert on pavlovas and it may not be something I'd necessarily crave, but we enjoyed this cappuccino spin of Nigella's.  For his age, my 7-year old has a somewhat unusual affinity for coffee flavored desserts!  The instant espresso powder adds bitterness to this "cap pav" that offsets some of its natural, inevitable, sweetness.  It is a good substitute for that cup of joe or cappuccino that some of us enjoy at the end of a meal, just without an actual cup involved.

You need to allot a few hours for making this pavlova since it needs to cool slowly in the oven after baking.  But I don't think there are any major mysteries in this simple recipe.  For my small, 6-inch (roughly, since it expands a bit while baking) version, you only need 2 large egg whites.  The cappuccino flavor comes from a couple of teaspoons of instant espresso powder, which I keep on hand to doctor up my chocolate desserts with all the time.

The process is certainly all about making the meringue, or whipping those egg whites into a thick, glossy sheen.  The abundance of sugar helps ensure this happens - just add the mixture of sugar and instant espresso powder slowly. 
Fold in a teaspoon of cornstarch and half a teaspoon of vinegar.  Then, spread the meringue into a 6-inch circle, smoothing out the top so that it's level.  I've seen some recipes instruct you to make an indent in the center but this recipe asks you to just flatten the top.  When it bakes, it spreads and the center will puff up slightly but fall back down as it cools.
I baked the meringue for about an hour, just like you would for a full 9-inch pavlova.  You leave the meringue inside the oven until it cools before removing the parchment paper and adding your topping.  A word of warning: the sides of the pavlova are extremely fragile and very liking to crack and fall apart.  I think that just adds to the charm of this dessert...and rest assured that the center will be nice and soft.

For the topping, I spread a modest amount of whipped cream over the pavlova.  Instead of dusting it with cocoa powder as the recipe suggests (to better mimic a cappuccino, I suppose), I went with some chocolate shavings. 
Store any leftovers in the fridge.  We stowed some away in the refrigerator and it was still in excellent condition the next night.


Recipe:

Nigella's Cappuccino Pavlova
Adapted from Nigellisma; recipe also available here (this recipe below is half the original; Nigella's original recipe makes a 9-inch pavlova)

- Makes one 6-inch pavlova; serves 4-5 -

For the pavlova:
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons superfine sugar
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
Small pinch of salt
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar

For the topping:
1/2 cup cold heavy cream
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Dark chocolate shavings or unsweetened cocoa powder

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Draw a 6-inch circle on a piece of parchment paper, using a cake pan as outline.  Turn parchment paper around so that the pencil markings do not touch the meringue, and place it onto a baking sheet.

Mix the sugar and instant espresso powder together in a small bowl.

Place egg whites and salt into a clean, grease-free bowl of a standmixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Starting near medium-speed then working up to medium-high, whip until soft peaks form.  Then, with the machine running, gradually add the sugar-coffee mixture one tablespoon at a time.  Whip until meringue is thick and glossy and it looks like a firm, ecru-colored meringue.  Fold in the cornstarch and vinegar using a grease-free metal spoon.

Dollop the meringue inside the drawn circle.  Use a small offset spatula to spread and smooth out the meringue into a round, making sure to flatten the top. 

Place in the oven and immediately turn down the oven temperature to 300°.  Bake for about 1 hour; the sides will be crisp and firm.  Turn off the oven and leave the meringue inside until cooled.

Once cooled, remove it from the oven.  The sides will be crisp and crackly so handle with care.  Gently peel off the parchment paper.  (Since the sides are fragile, I find it easier to simply hold the bottom of the meringue and gently peel away the paper instead of turning it upside down on a plate.) 

To make the topping, whip the heavy cream (I did it by hand with a large whisk) with the sugar and vanilla extract until it's just thick and pillowy.    Spread it carefully over the meringue.  Then top with a sprinkling of dark chocolate shavings or a dusting of unsweetened cocoa powder. 
 
Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for the next day. 
 



42 comments:

  1. What a beautiful pavlova! I love that you made this into a smaller dessert. I will need to try this the next time I have leftover egg whites (which is quite often!).

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    1. Thanks, Eva! I just remembered you saying you often have leftover egg whites. I get excited when I have them - there are so many possibilities from macarons to financiers or something new like this. I also love to just add them to a whole egg for my breakfast sandwich so I use them up quick!

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  2. This is GORGEOUS and sounds so delicious! Love Nigella :)

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    1. Thanks, Marie! Gotta love Nigella!

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  3. YUM! Anything with espresso powder is amazing.

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    1. Hi Jenn - the espresso powder here does the trick and gives you that full on cappuccino flavor.

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  4. This is on my list but haven't made one yet. This turned out great and so beautiful!

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    1. It's been on my list too! Many possibilities...

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  5. Hehehe, "commander of sweets" :) Mmmm. I love meringue. This looks so good!

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    1. Amy, I'm so not original so the "Commander in Sweets" thing is not my creation. I think it fits me and my household though...no one else wants the job! ; )

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  6. What an unusual and beautiful pavlova. I've only seen the kinds made with fruit, but this looks so much better! Thank you for sharing. It turned out just lovely!

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    1. Thanks, Monet. I've gotten to embrace some fruit desserts but it's not totally my thing. Chocolate and chocolate-related is more my speed! : )

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  7. Beautiful dessert, Monica! I have yet to try a pavlova (the plain white shell never appealed) but this espresso version has won me over. We are VERY partial to espresso anything at our house! So many bloggers adore Nigella that when I saw a like-new copy of her "Feast" cookbook at a recent used book sale ($4!) I grabbed it. I haven't had a chance to try any of the recipes yet. Any suggestions?

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    1. Thanks, Wendy. The regular pavlova never appealed to me either beyond being very lovely to look at. That is some bargain for "Feast"! I have a couple of Nigella's books but that's not one of them. I'm honestly not much of a savory cook via cookbook person but I just adore watching Nigella. Love the things she says and her unabashed love for food.

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  8. How very pretty! It's nice to see a pavlova that doesn't have berries.

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    1. And I was feeling guilty about doing one without the berries! : ) Thanks!

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  9. I've yet to attempt a pavlova or really anything meringue-like...but this cappuccino version is calling to me! Gorgeous!

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    1. I usually prefer meringue with nuts in them - it adds so much flavor and cuts the sweetness. The instant espresso powder here cuts it so it works.

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  10. yum! this looks delicious! it looks great with the chocolate shavings!

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    1. I definitely like adding chocolate where I can!

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  11. Yours looks beautiful! I do want to try making pavlova sometime.

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    1. Thanks, Alyssa. It's fun to try something different sometimes.

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  12. This looks really good! I've never tried a pavlova but definitely something I want to try making at some point...looks delish!

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    1. Thanks, Sara. It's good for the Spring/Summer. : )

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  13. Oh...this cappuccino pavlova looks amazing. I'm sure it tastes just as delicious. Can't wait to try this.

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  14. WOW -- that looks fantastic! I could go for a HUGE slice of this. :) I love any dessert flavored with cappuccino. YUMMY!

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    1. Thanks, Anne! This would be good with some coffee ice cream, too. : )

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  15. Pavlova is one of my favorite desserts. I love it with lemon curt - cream and berries. Your variation is so interesting and unique. Very good-)

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  16. Wow! I need this pavlova in my life. Love the flavors here :)

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  17. Wow, I absolutely love the sound of a cappuccino pavlova! This looks so yummy!

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    1. I liked the sound of it too and I'm glad I gave it a go. It's quite easy to make.

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  18. Just love this cappuccino pavlova with chocolate shavings on top!!!

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  19. I haven't had pavlova in my life! I only came to learn this dessert after I started blogging... I know, it's pretty sad! But I happen not to learn about this for over 30 years... I cannot believe it. =P Such a gorgeous pavlova, Monica! Wish this was my first Pavlova that I get to eat!

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    1. There are just too many things to eat and sometimes we just can't get to 'em all, Nami! It's okay! ; )

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  20. Wow this looks so pretty...almost too pretty to eat. Almost. ;)

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  21. monica: you keep beating me to recipes! I had to (finally) take this book back to the library, but this pavlova was on my mind. I've been doing some freelance work for a local food magazine here, and what did i choose to make for my assignment? That's right: pavlova. and i used her Wedding Pav as a base to work from. Aren't they just wonderful? yours looks just absurdly delicious. I need to just make it official and purchase this book.

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    1. The freelance work sounds wonderful and exciting, Shannon! I'm sure you are doing a fabulous job! : ) I was thinking that despite how much I love Nigella, I haven't made many of her recipes so I made a few. I don't think I did this pavlova justice since I whipped it up last minute as my husband was getting ready to grill for dinner. But it was fun and not hard at all. : )

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