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chocolate raspberry pavlova stack – smitten kitchen

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Definitely read this recipe through, especially what can and cannot be made ahead, listed at the end, before you start. While I’ve simplified it in every way that such a wobbling, centerpiece of a dessert can be without compromising what it is, please, let this be an indulgence of a cooking project, one you should give a minimum of 3.5 hours from baking to assembly, plus additional resting time so it can soften. (A few weeks ago I began one at 3pm for a 6pm dinner party and it was not enjoyable in any way. It looked the way I do when I don’t have enough time to get ready!)

Pavlovas6 large egg whites1 1/2 cups (300 grams) granulated sugar1/4 teaspoon kosher salt1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic or red wine vinegar1/4 cup (20 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder, any kind, sifted if lumpy2 ounces (55 grams) semi- or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
Raspberry Curd12 ounces (about 2 1/2 cups) fresh or defrosted raspberries2 tablespoons (30 ml) fresh lemon juice1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (125 grams) granulated sugar6 large egg yolks3 tablespoons (45 grams) unsalted butter
Assemble and Finish4 ounces (115 grams) semi- or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped2 cups (475 ml) heavy cream, divided2 teaspoons (10 grams) granulated sugar1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract1 cup (115 grams) fresh raspberriesPowdered sugar, for dusting

Make the meringue: Heat oven to 300°F. Use a pencil to trace 3 8″-diameter circles on each of 3 separate pieces of parchment paper. Place pencil-side down on baking sheets.
Beat the egg whites with the whisk attachment of an electric mixer on medium to medium-high until thickened, satiny peaks form (this is very important to achieve before adding any sugar or the structure will collapse) then beat in the 1 1/2 cups of sugar a spoonful at a time until the mixture is stiff and shiny. Sprinkle the surface of the mixture with the salt, vinegar, cocoa powder, and 2 ounces chopped chocolate and gently fold it in with a spatula, being careful not to deflate the meringue at all.
Dollop in big spoonfuls into the prepared parchment circles and use the back of a spoon to push them into thick, ripply discs. Place in oven and reduce temperature to 250°F, and bake until the pavlovas are crisp and dry to the touch, about 75 minutes. If they feel a little sticky or look shiny in places at 75 minutes, add another 15 minutes. Turn the oven heat off. I stick a spoon or balled up dishtowel in the oven door to keep it slightly ajar while slowly cooling the pavlovas. You can cool them completely this way, but I get impatient after about 30 minutes and cool them the rest of the way with the door open. You might get a couple small cracks, but it won’t matter for this rustic dessert.
Meanwhile, make the raspberry curd: Purée your raspberries in a food processor or high-speed blender and push through a fine-mesh strainer to remove the seeds. Place 1/2 cup of this raspberry purée (you’ll have a little extra; save for a smoothie or yogurt bowl), lemon juice, 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, and egg yolks in a medium-large heatproof bowl and whisk to thoroughly combine.
Bring a medium saucepan with an inch or two of water in it to a simmer on the stove. Place the bowl with the raspberry mixture over the pot (the bowl should not touch the water) and cook, stirring, until the mixture begins to thicken and it coats the spatula or whisk (between 170-180°F). Do not let it come to a simmer; the mixture will thicken right before it will. Remove from the heat, add butter and stir until it melts.
Transfer the curd to a bowl to cool completely; it will finish thickening as it cools. To hurry this along, as I always do, set the bowl in a larger bowl of ice water (ensuring the ice water is far below the surface of your bowl so it doesn’t splash in, of course) and let it cool, stirring it occasionally so it does so evenly.
Make final components: Once pavlovas and raspberry curd are completely cool, you can get ready to assemble the dessert. To make the chocolate sauce for drizzling, place 4 ounces chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Bring 3/4 cup of the heavy cream to a simmer in the microwave or in a small saucepan on the stove and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for one minute, then whisk the mixture together until the chocolate is smooth and glossy. Set aside to cool slightly.
To make whipped cream, beat remaining 1 1/4 cups heavy cream with 2 teaspoons granulated sugar and vanilla extract until it reaches soft peaks.
Assemble and rest: Place a dab of raspberry curd in the middle of a serving plate and place first layer of pavlova on top. The curd can help it stay in place. Spoon about 1/3 of the raspberry curd (just eyeball the amount) over the pavlova and use a small spoon or offset spatula to gently nudge it across the surface. If it wants to spill over the edges in places, let it. Spoon 1/3 of the whipped cream over the curd and again, use a spoon or spatula to nudge it out to the edges. Drizzle some of the chocolate sauce over the whipped cream, letting some drip. Place second pavlova disc on top and repeat this process twice, with remaining curd, cream, some of the chocolate, and remaining pavlova layer. Finish with fresh raspberries, a final drizzle of chocolate, and a dusting of powdered sugar.
Transfer completed pavlova stack to the fridge for 1 to 2 hours before serving, and up to 6. The longer it hangs out in the fridge, the softer the center gets, but I promise, even at 8 hours, nothing will be bad about it.
To serve: Serve pavlova in messy wedges. If it’s in the first couple hours of resting time, you’ll probably want a sharp serrated knife to cut through the pavlova layers. Leftovers keep in the fridge for up to 4 days, but the edges of the pavlovas get more dry and the center more soft and chewy each day.
Do ahead: Baked meringues will keep lightly wrapped at room temperature for a day. Raspberry curd will keep in the fridge for 4 days. The chocolate sauce and whipped cream are best made right before assembly, although there are ways to make fridge-stable whipped creams. (The chocolate sauce would likely need to be gently rewarmed to be thin enough to drizzle if made in advance, which doesn’t seem like it would save any time.)

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