Look, no one is ever going to marry me for my pavlova. (I mean, talking about dodging a bullet…) This one was particularly underachieving. First, I thought I’d be clever and try to add the cocoa at the start, mixed with the sugar, so that it would mix the best. Nope! It never fully whipped. With this in the trash, I began my next one, breaking an egg yolk right into the white. I can usually get it all out (tip! use the empty shell as a scooper/skimmer) but not this time. I started a new bowl and, yup, did it again. Finally, with six uncompromised egg whites and cocoa stirred in only at the very end, ensuring a respectably thick, shiny plume of meringue, I began piling my chocolate plumes on a 9-inch round parchment circle, only to realize this wasn’t very bright, as the meringue would spread.
I cut a new, larger square of parchment and used the old one as a sling/tube-of-a-pastry bag to land the new one in a great, elegant swirl and then fell over laughing (and texting everyone I know with the picture because: all grownup here!) Smoothed into more of a mound, I baked it at the wrong temperature and it got too crispy and riddled with cracks. Anyone left reading from New Zealand just is doing this right now. (Don’t worry, I retested it — woe is me — to confirm that the correct temperature and times are indeed correct.)
But I have one thing going for us, and that’s that this pavlova is the most chocolaty I’ve ever had. The apartment air was steeped with eau de brownies, the very best perfume. Even a day later, this cake of a meringue is decadent but not heavy, basically dessert magic. Do not be deceived, as I have been in the past, by the pale beige shade of the outer shell — inside, it’s like a truffle with the impact of and the texture of a pillow.
One of the reasons I think pavlovas can be a hard sell outside, say, the Pavlova Motherlands of Australia and New Zealand, is that I hear from most people that they find them to be too sweet. But I was able to reduce the sugar a bit from the norm here and didn’t miss it; adding salt also helps as does chocolate, not just because things with chocolate > things without chocolate but because the bitterness of cocoa and chopped chocolate here really kept the sugar in check, as does a plume of barely sweetened whipped cream and a cascade of berries. Let’s not even pretend that we don’t want to swan dive in.