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Daring Bakers- June: Chocolate Pavlova with Mascarpone Mousse

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.

The Berry Chocolate Pavlova

Let me get one thing straight. I love chocolate as much as the next person but I couldn’t help raising an eyebrow when I saw the pictures of this month’s challenge. Brown meringue. Brown mousse. No relief in sight. And then I read the recipes. I think I felt some chest pain. Below are the lists of ingredients per section of the challenge:

Recipe 1: Chocolate Meringue (for the chocolate Pavlova):

3 large egg whites
½ cup plus 1 tbsp (110 grams) white granulated sugar
¼ cup (30 grams) confectioner’s (icing) sugar
1/3 cup (30 grams) cocoa powder

Recipe 2: Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse (for the top of the Pavlova base):

1 ½ cups (355 mls) heavy cream (cream with a milk fat content of between 36 and 40 percent)
grated zest of 1 average sized lemon
9 ounces (255 grams) 72% chocolate, chopped
1 2/3 cups (390 mls) mascarpone (don’t forget we made this a few months ago – get the printable .pdf HERE)
pinch of nutmeg
2 tbsp (30 mls) Grand Marnier (or orange juice)

Recipe 3: Mascarpone Cream (for drizzling):

1 recipe crème anglaise
½ cup (120 mls) mascarpone
2 tbsp (30 mls) Sambucca (optional)
½ cup (120 mls) heavy cream

Recipe 4: Crème Anglaise (a component of the Mascarpone Cream above):

1 cup (235 mls) whole milk
1 cup (235 mls) heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
6 large egg yolks
6 tbsp (75 grams) sugar

See what I mean? I knew it was going to have to make some changes.

I slowly shop for ingredients throughout the month for a Daring Bakers challenge and it lined up so I had everything ready on the 21st, a day boasting of the summer solstice, Spain v. Honduras, and a day of suffocating humidity in the city. I will admit I made the chocolate mousse the day before since it seemed like it would survive refrigeration without any bad side effects. I made 1/3 of the recipe.

The chocolate mousse is underway.

On the 21st, I came home from the gym and took the eggs out of the fridge and then made myself lunch. It didn’t take long for the eggs to warm up and I used two for the meringue since I wasn’t planning on making the whole recipe, but I love meringue so I made a little of of that part of it than the cream products. At the same time, with the two yolks, I made 1/3 of the recipe for the creme anglaise. And then the unthinkable happened. Sit down for the revelation. I broke the cream. I have never ruined a custard. EVER. I blame it on being distracted with the meringue, my goat cheese panino I was making, and washing the dishes. It was find when I added everything back to the pan with the eggs appropriately tempered. It must have boiled too fast. I hate wasting food. It’s an offense that should be punishable by, if not death, then something. I bend over backwards to not throw food away and have become adept at all kinds of Old World ways of saving produce and leftovers etc. But I had to throw this out. It looked like baby vomit and there was no saving it. It broke my heart, but there you have it.

The match was starting and I threw the meringue in the oven for its long, slow bake. Just after David Villa slammed the first goal home, I felt energized enough to try it again. This time, since it was the only food product I was making at the time, it came off without a hitch. I made a 1/6 of that recipe and finished it with some Creme de Cacao since I had no Sambuca and no wherewithal to drag myself to the state store just for that. The heat was positively withering.

My mother has made pavlovas as far back as I can remember and has always topped them with a simple topping of whipped cream and plentiful fruit. I made my pavlova in the spirit of that recipe. Unlike the challenge recipe, I made one and not many small ones. I hate individual servings of things, finding it far too fussy, something akin to doillies or “tablescapes”. Nigella Lawson agrees with me. See her recipe for creme brulee in Domestic Goddess. I also believe in baking but hate washing up and will take all kinds of shortcuts to not use too many dishes. Needless to say, I didn’t go near my piping bag and just freehanded it. I added some chocolate powder to the meringue, but only enough to turn it a light shade of sunkissed, not dark brown. I didn’t measure, I just sprinkled until it looked good to me. Thanks to the humidity, it turned out a little sticky when it was done, but not too bad.

I added a couple of sprinklings of milk to the mousse to soften it up enough to scoop out since it had been in the fridge overnight. It’s a smaller proportion than what the recipe calls for but lighter is better. I topped the pavlova with plentiful raspberries and blueberries, the first of the season. They should be the centerpiece of a pavlova, not the cream. I topped that with the other cream and then topped that with a few smashed brazil nuts. Almonds would have been better but I didn’t have any, so there.

A cross section of the pav.

Verdict: I didn’t like this recipe. I thought it was unnecessarily rich. Heavy cream lightly sweetened and then whipped makes a great contrast to the crunch to the sweet, brittle meringue. The fruit should be the star of the show. The addition of the mascarpone gave it an added richness and thickness I thought was unnecessary and unpleasant, but then this is coming from someone who abhors America-style cheesecake. It’s the summer. It’s hot, humid, merciless, and yet the fruit is starting to pop up in the markets. I wish the recipe chosen for this month would keep some of that in mind. I think I made the right choice by cutting a lot of the creams in amount and increasing the proportion of meringue and fruit. When will someone pick ice cream and a vessel to serve it in? I’d be all over that. As consolation, I made Raspberry Rose Sorbet from the great David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop.

One Response to “Daring Bakers- June: Chocolate Pavlova with Mascarpone Mousse”

  1. 1
    Renata:

    Your final Pavlova looks really good despite all the changes you made. I’m sure it was delicious! Well done!

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