Monday, 21 July 2014

Black Forest Pavlova with Fresh Cherries

Food is like anything else and is susceptible to the fashions and fads of a particular era. When I was a young child in the 1970s, the height of sophistication, in culinary terms, was a meal consisting of a starter of prawn cocktail, steak diane for main course and black forest gateau for dessert. Due to their popularity, there wasn’t a restaurant menu in the land that didn’t seem to have at least one of these dishes on it. The reason for this is very simple – these dishes tasted wonderful! Well… they did; when cooked with love and attention to detail, but as with many things in life, their very popularity was their downfall and, particularly in the case of black forest gateau, inferior mass produced versions were bought into restaurant kitchens and served up to diners in an effort to maximise profits and cut back on the effort involved in actually making them in-house.

The black forest gateau began to fall out of favour and became to be seen as something a little kitsch and vulgar. In my opinion, this is an awful shame, because at its core, it is an absolute classic on the taste front! Chocolate, cherries, cream and kirsch… yum! These are flavours that were just meant to go together and when treated with love and an understanding of the flavour balances at play, they are heavenly.
 
I was thinking about food fashions recently and lamenting the fact that so many of the old favourites are now deemed unsophisticated and people regularly scoff at them.

Cherries are in season at the moment and whilst not the cheapest of fruits to buy, they are a lovely treat every now and again. I absolutely love them. Fresh cherries bear absolutely no resemblance to the tiny sugary orbs known as glacé cherries which are used in baking, most especially the fruit cakes that I love to bake at Christmas time. Fresh cherries, when ripe are unlike any other fruit – there is something so decadent about them and their rich and rounded fruity flavour tastes divine. I always think there is an air of naughtiness about them and they possess a definite air of hedonism.

Armed with a large bag of ripe cherries, I decided to start playing with the basic black forest gateau flavour combinations. I have been experimenting with mousses and tarts and pies and cakes and will post some photos and recipes for the dishes that I have been working on in the near future, but for the time being here is my recipe for Black Forest Pavlova.

The pavlova base for this is chocolate flavoured courtesy of some added cocoa powder and some chocolate chunks folded into the basic meringue mixture. I have topped the pavlova with some cream lightly flavoured with kirsch and a load of fresh cherries which I had great fun pitting with my newly acquired cherry pitter (every home should have one). Oh…and because I could, I also drizzled some melted dark chocolate over everything to give an added chocolate hit.

This is rich; this is sweet; this is deliciously unctuous… all the things a good dessert should be!

Ingredients:

4 large egg whites
215g caster sugar
2tsp cornflour
20g cocoa powder
1 tsp white wine vinegar
30g chocolate chips or chocolate cut into small chunks
To finish:
250ml single cream, whipped
2tsp kirsch or other cherry flavoured brandy
200g pitted fresh cherries
100g dark chocolate, melted
 

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 150C/Fan Oven 130C/Gas Mark 2. Line a large baking sheet with some non-stick baking parchment and set aside.
2. Place the egg whites in a scrupulously clean mixing bowl and using a hand-held electric mixer, beat together to the soft peak stage. Gradually add the caster sugar, mixing well after each addition to create a glossy meringue.
3. Sift in the cornflour and cocoa powder and fold into the meringue using a large metal spoon. Finally, mix in the vinegar and fold through the chocolate chips.
4. Pile the mixture onto the parchment lined baking tray, and using the back of a metal spoon spread out into a circle about 20cms in diameter. I always try to create an almost bowl shaped circle so that the fruit is easier contained in the baked pavlova. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 75 minutes. Switch off the oven and allow the pavlova to cool completely in the oven before removing.
To finish:
5. Place the pavlova on your serving plate/cake stand. Mix the kirsch through the whipped cream and pile onto the centre of the pavlova. Pile the cherries on top of the cream and finally drizzle the melted chocolate over everything.
 
Serves 6-8.