Chocolate Strawberry Pavlova for Valentine's Day
Valentine's Day is just a few days away and if you haven't thought of what to make for a romantic dessert, my Chocolate Strawberry Pavlova should fit the bill nicely. It's an impressive yet surprisingly easy dessert to make. Equal time is spent hands on and hands off to make this delicious treat. This post is sponsored by Nest Fresh Eggs.
I have made meringue cookies many times, so easy to whip up and most of the time is spent hands off - they just sit in the oven to dry. Easy peasy. I have attempted macarons before, and lets just say, I will leave those to the experts. When I was thinking of an idea for a dessert to make for Valentine's Day for Nest Fresh Eggs I knew it needed to be something that utilizes lots of eggs and I wanted to do so in a creative way. Enter the pavlova. Its like a macaron but way bigger and way less fussy to make. No folding in the almond flour - no flour at all actually. But it has the crunchy outer "shell" and soft chewy center. It whips up and bakes like meringue cookies. I wanted to make it more "Valentinesy" so I made it chocolate strawberry flavored since I love this flavor combination for this holiday.
The trick to a good pavlova is not using super fresh eggs. Not rotten eggs that is gross, but using eggs that are about a week old. The whites are thicker when the egg is fresher and they wont separate from the yolks as easily or whip up with much volume. So use eggs that are about a week old, separate then sit out until they are room temperature. Its way easier to separate eggs when cold, the shell gets thinner at room temperature and more fragile and there is a greater chance of getting yolk into the whites when cracking. You want no trace of yolk in the whites when whipping so you get maximum volume. Any trace of fat from from the yolks can make the whites not gain as much volume.
We are serious egg eaters in this house. And we are serious about the quality of the eggs. We only buy organic, non-gmo, free range eggs. Nest Fresh Eggs has been our egg of choice for a long time now. You can tell the difference in the eggs too. The come in a variety of shell colors in browns from light tan, to a dark richer brown to even bluish or greenish. Nature's easter egg colors. And the yolks are a much brighter and deeper orange color than commercially raised eggs. They taste so much better too. I fully believe in "you are what you eat" but I take it a step further with " you are what your food eats". So I make sure the eggs my family and I eat are the highest quality we can get. Plus the chickens get to live in a natural environment. Free to run around and scratch, eat bugs and worms, lay eggs where they feel most comfortable. I always scratch my head when I see "vegetarian fed" since chickens aren't vegetarians! I don't want to eat eggs that come from chickens fed a diet of gmo corn and soy feed. No way, no thank you. When Nest Fresh Eggs asked me if I wanted to create a fun Valentine's dessert for them I was so excited since they are my go-to brand for eggs.
To make the pavlova - I took the cake stand I wanted to use and made a template on parchment since the pavlova would be baking on it. I wanted to make it heart shaped for Valentine's day ( aweeee so cute) So I cut out a heart and traced that inside the circle. The pavlova does spread a little so I made the heart small enough so that it would still be good sized but not poof out past the circle and not fit on the cake plate. When I did my first test of the recipe it spread way too far when baking, oops, so I couldn't use it. It was a delicious "oops". A little trick for keeping the parchment paper to stay ( it slides all over when spreading the meringue into the heart shape) is to dab a little under the corners so it "glues" to the baking sheet.
I divided the meringue equally between the two baking sheets making sure it was within the heart shape and a used the spatula to make the sides a little higher than the middles. This helps keep from spreading too much. The pavlovas will crack a little during the baking and cooling and that is ok. It is what a pavlova does. It is a perfectly imperfect dessert. I love messy desserts that still look impressive. The pavlovas are pretty fragile so you need to use caution when transferring to the cake plate or other serving platter. I used a wide spatula to lift it.
Whenever I have a recipe that calls for all egg whites like this pavlova, I always save the yolks for another use. Like homemade ice cream or in this instance, strawberry curd. Curd is so easy to make and a great way to use up yolks. I love the color contrast with the curd, the whipped cream and the pavlova - very "Valentinesy" right?
Of course I needed to add fresh strawberries to the layers as well. With the added moisture from the whipped cream, strawberry curd and the fresh strawberries the pavlova's started to soften a little, and the lower layer cracked a little more, but again since that is what a pavlova does I wasn't too worried. Its all part of its charm.
Gorgeous and so easy to make!
For the Pavlova:
- 6 egg whites, room temperature (use 1 week old high quality eggs such as Nest Fresh Eggs
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 ½ c super fine sugar
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon red wine or balsamic vinegar ( I used strawberry balsamic vinegar)
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ c high quality cocoa powder ( I used Valrhona)
- 3 teaspoon corn starch ( I used organic)
For the Strawberry curd:
- 1 pounds fresh or frozen strawberries ( if fresh remove stems and cut out hulls)
- 4 egg yolks
- ¾ c sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoon corn starch
- 2 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For filling and topping:
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 2 tsbp powdered sugar (10x confectioners sugar)
- 1 ounce dark chocolate, melted for drizzle
- 1 cup sliced strawberries
To assemble the pavlova:
- Whip the cream until thickened, add in the powdered sugar and whip again until you get stiff peaks when the beater blades are removed from the cream. Heat the chocolate until thin enough to drizzle ( Chocolate pieces in a glass bowl for 30 sec increments in the microwave works fine)
- Place one of the pavlova hearts on a cake stand or serving plate. Spread half of the cream over the top then spread some of the curd on top making sure the curd isn’t spread past the cream. Arrange strawberry slices on top. Repeat with next layer, remaining cream, curd and fresh strawberries. Drizzle the chocolate on top. Serve immediately.
The pavlova can be refrigerated a few hours before serving - but the meringue of the pavlova layers will soften significantly.
There will be leftover strawberry curd. This can be refrigerated up to a week or frozen for 3 months. It is most excellent on pancakes and waffles. Or ice cream.
I have to admit I was a little scared slicing the two pieces for photos since it is such a messy dessert but I was pleasantly surprised that they sliced really easily. One slice ended up being my pre tennis practice snack, and what a tasty snack it was. A huge thank you to Nest Fresh Eggs for sponsoring this post. Thank you all for reading my blog and supporting the brands I use to help make my blog possible. All opinions are my own, even if I sound a little biased - they really are amazing eggs!
I know I took SO MANY photos for this post - but I feel the step by steps would be a huge help and its such a gorgeous dessert it was hard to narrow down which photos to use! Its definitely a photogenic confection!