Hello, again! Katie from Butterlust here, back to share another decadent dessert + wine pairing with you all. ‘Tis the season for merrymaking, and I love nothing more than to celebrate the holidays with good friends and great wine. And since this time of year sweets tend to be front and center, today I’m sharing a beautiful but simple pavlova recipe. It’s lofty whipped cream peaks and festive cherry-red color are sure to be a stand-out on your holiday table, without being overly demanding in the kitchen.
This Chocolate Pavlova with Amaretto Cherry Compote & Cocoa Nibs is no ordinary pavlova. A traditional pavlova is made with plain meringue so that it has a pure white color and airy, crisp texture. It’s almost weightless, lending itself to summertime meals and white wine pairings. In fact, one rule of meringue making is to avoid adding any fat to the mix to ensure a light, crisp result. But in the case of today’s recipe, we’re breaking rules in order to add a wintery twist to this classic. (Fun, right?)
You see, cocoa powder contains trace amounts of fat. When added to meringue, the result is a light, airy exterior with a chewy, indulgent interior. It doesn’t possess the same crispness or hold its shape as well as a traditional meringue, but makes up for the lack of shape in rich, chocolate flavor and a slightly gooey, marshmallow-like center. In fact, the flavor is similar to that of a high-quality hot chocolate -- cozy and indulgent, it’s a lovely match for the heartier flavors of the season.
Just before serving, the pavlova is topped with fresh, unaltered whipped cream and amaretto cherry compote. Whole cherries and amaretto are cooked down until thick and syrupy, creating a ruby compote with deep cherry flavor, notes of almond and a slight twang of acidity to balance out the richness of the cream and cocoa. To finish things off, fresh cherries and cocoa nibs are added for garnish. The result is a beautiful mingling of textures and flavors -- airy, chewy, creamy, sweet and bitter -- that can only be improved upon by pairing with a delicious glass of red wine.
For this year’s Christmas dessert, I’m pairing this pavlova with Kendall-Jackson Jackson Estate Anderson Valley Pinot Noir. This medium-bodied wine balances beautifully with the light meringue, ensuring that neither overpowers the other, and it’s cherry and berry notes play perfectly with the cherry compote. Bright acidity keeps things from feeling too rich, while providing a lovely contrast to the earthy, bitterness from both the cocoa powder and nibs. Enjoy and Happy Holidays!
For the chocolate pavlova:
- 6 egg whites, at room temperature
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
- ⅛ teaspoon cream of tartar
- Pinch of salt
- 3 tablespoons dutch-process cocoa powder, sifted
For the amaretto cherry compote:
- 16 oz. (1 bag) frozen cherries, pitted and halved
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup amaretto liqueur
- Juice of ½ lemon
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
- Cocoa nibs, for garnish
- Fresh cherries, for garnish
For the pavlova:
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and trace an 8-inch circle in the middle. Flip the parchment over; you should still be able to see the outline.
- In a heatproof bowl (I prefer metal) whisk together the egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar and salt. Place bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk constantly until sugar has dissolved, about 5 minutes.
- Transfer the egg mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high speed for 5-7 minutes, or until meringue is glossy and holds stiff peaks.
- Sift the cocoa powder over the meringue and gently fold it in using a spatula. Be careful not to deflate the meringue; it’s okay of a few streaks remain.
- Spoon half of the meringue onto the parchment circle, spreading to meet the edges but not going over as it will spread in the oven. Top with the second half of the meringue (don’t be afraid of height), and create a well in the middle to hold the filling.
- Place in the oven, immediately reduce the temperature to 300F and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, or until the meringue is dry and firm to the touch. When reach, turn off the oven, crack the door a bit and let the pavlova cook completely in the oven. This will help it continue to dry out.
For the amaretto cherry compote:
- Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Over medium heat, bring to a boil. The cherries will begin to release their juices. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the juices have reduced down and become syrupy.
- Transfer to a bowl and let cool completely.
- Combine the cream and confectioner’s sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Beat until fluffy.
- Spoon the whipped cream into the well of the pavlova. Top with cooled cherry compote and garnish with fresh cherries and cocoa nibs. Serve immediately with some Kendall-Jackson Jackson Estate Anderson Valley Pinot Noir.