Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Chocolate Vino Cotto Pavlova with Balsamic Strawberries and Basil

Chocolate Vino cotto Pavlova with Balsamic Strawberries and Basil 
This is the dessert that defines a season. Nothing beats a sneaky pav in the warm weather, one groaning with fruit and mascarpone cream whipped into submission.
This version is smooth, creamy, tart and sweet all at once – the refreshing meringue crunch and balsamic tingling on the tongue create a gustatory high worth savouring. I remember Maggie Beer adding vino cotto to chocolate pavlova as a way of cutting through the richness and adding a background sweetness. It’s genius. I also adore the similar flavour profiles from Anna Del Conte’s uber traditional balsamic strawberries so this dessert is simply two legends, coming together for a dessert that has big busty flavours stomping all over your tastebuds. I love combining macerated, fresh and dried strawberries – just to up the ante on the party in your mouth.
Obviously I always need to up the chocolate quota (story of my life) so I’ve pressed both milk and dark chocolate chunks into the meringue but feel free to leave this out if you don’t suffer the same affliction.

6 free range egg whites
Pinch of salt
1 ½ cups caster sugar
¼ cup unsweetened dutch process cocoa powder
1 generous tablespoon vino cotto (or balsamic vinegar)
Handful of milk and dark lindt chocolate chunks (about 50g)
Balsamic strawberries
500g strawberries washed and hulled
1 ½ tablespoons caster sugar
1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

500g Crème fraiche or mascarpone (to your taste)
250g wild strawberries (with stems if available)
1 handful dried strawberries
Balsamic glaze and basil leaves to serve

Preheat the oven to 180C.Line a baking tray with baking paper and set aside
Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the salt then very gradually add the sugar, ensuring the sugar has dissolved and fully incorporated after the meringue has reached full peak. It should look stiff and shiny and if you rub some of the mixture between your fingers you shouldn’t feel any sugar granules. Sift in the cocoa and gently stir to combine – don’t worry if its not entirely uniform. Mound the meringue mixture onto the baking paper in a rough circle shape then smooth the sides and tops gently with a spatula keeping in mind the peaks and troughs keep it interesting.
Gently push the chocolate chunks into the meringue then place in the oven and cook for 60-70 minutes. Allow to cool.
To prepare the balsamic strawberries halve or quarter any larger strawberries. Sprinkle the strawberries with the sugar as soon as the meringue goes in the oven and gently toss to coat. About 30 minutes before serving pour the vinegar over the strawberries and toss again.
Plate the meringue and smear the crème fraiche over the top. Scatter over the balsamic strawberries then top with the fresh strawberries and the dried strawberries. Scatter over the basil leaves and drizzle any balsamic glaze if using then serve immediately.

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