Pavlova… we Kiwis can’t get enough of it. But, just occasionally, you want to give it a makeover.
Not to say that the classic mounded pavlova is passé at all, but this time around I just felt like a change. Enter Jamie Oliver’s tray-bake pavlova (which is kind of a misnomer, given pavlovas are baked on a tray anyway), with its rustic, slab-like appearance.
Of course, spreading the meringue out in this way means sacrificing the usual towering marshmallow interior. On the other hand, you get more bang for your buck in terms of a crunchy surface – a fair compromise I’d say!
I couldn’t wait to try the pear, chocolate sauce and toasted hazelnut combo – a much more decadent topping than the usual layered fruit. But, alas… a bit of a let-down. The tinned pears were… well… disappointingly bland. Jamie’s chocolate sauce, too, was too sweet for our liking (and made way too much). But, determined to make it work, I made it again a week later with a few adjustments.
This time I used fresh pears poached in a glorious spiced orange liqueur sauce that I’d made previously, and my perennial favourite raw chocolate sauce. And, bingo… a success. Compliments abounded, plates were licked… always a good sign. Enjoy!
PAVLOVA SLAB WITH SPICED POACHED PEARS, HAZELNUTS & CHOCOLATE SAUCE
For the pavlova:
- 4 large free-range egg whites
- Pinch of sea salt
- 7 oz caster (superfine sugar)
For the spiced poached pears & sauce:
- 1 cup orange juice
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 cup orange liqueur
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- Zest of 1 orange (grated)
- 3 whole cloves
- 3 cinnamon stick
- 3 star anise
- 3-4 ripe (but firm pears, peeled, cored and quartered*)
For the raw chocolate sauce:
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1/4 cup raw cacao powder (or use unsweetened cocoa powder)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/8 – 1/4 tsp of salt, to taste
For the hazelnuts:
- 3.5 oz hazelnuts
For the cream topping:
- 13.5 fl oz double cream
- 1.7 oz icing (confectioner's sugar, sifted)
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the pavlova (you can make ahead)**:
- Preheat your oven to 150°C (300°F) and line a 40 x 25cm baking tray with a sheet of baking paper.
- Put your egg whites and salt into a scrupulously clean bowl. Whisk on medium until the whites start to form firm peaks. With the mixer still running, gradually add the sugar. Turn the mixer up to the highest setting and beat until the meringue mixture is stiff, white and glossy and the sugar as dissolved (you can test a little of the mixture between your fingers – you shouldn't feel any sugar granules).
- Spoon the meringue out on to the paper. Using the back of a spoon, shape and swirl it into and A4 size rectangle. Place in the preheated oven and bake for an hour, or until the exterior is crisp. Once baked, take out of the oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely.
For the spiced poached pears & sauce (you can make ahead):
- In a large saucepan combine the orange juice, water, orange liqueur, sugar, orange zest, cloves, cinnamon stick and star anise. Place the sliced pears in the pan. Over top of the pears place a cartouche (a cut to size piece of baking paper – see instructions How to Poach Pears – David Lebovitz) – this will ensure the tops of the pears that aren’t covered by liquid cook properly and don’t discolour.
- Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for about 10-15 minutes, or until pears are tender but notmushy (a sharp paring knife should easily slide into the flesh).
- Lift off the cartouche and gently remove the pears from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside(if making ahead, store in the fridge).
- For the sauce, bring the heat up to moderate/high and cook the liquid until it is reduced by half(watch that it doesn’t boil over). Take off heat and put aside to cool.
For the raw chocolate sauce (you can make ahead):
- Put a little water (an inch or two) into a small saucepan and place onto a low heat until the waterstarts to simmer gently. Place a heat-proof bowl over the saucepan, ensuring that the waterdoesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl.
- Place all the ingredients in the bowl (I suggest you add the salt in last, tasting as you go, until youget the flavour you want). Allow the ingredients to melt, stirring occasionally, until the mixture isvelvety and smooth.
- Take off the heat and pour the sauce into a pouring container and serve while still warm.
For the hazelnuts (you can make ahead):
- Dry-fry the hazelnuts in a fry-pan (skillet) until you can smell their aroma. Take off the heat, let them cool a little, and then place them in a tea-towel and rub vigorously to shed them of their skins. Chop roughly and put aside.
For the cream topping (you can make ahead):
- Whip the cream to soft peaks with the sifted icing sugar and the vanilla extract until it formssmooth, soft peaks (don't over-whip). Store in fridge until needed.
To assemble (do this right before serving):
- Place the cooled pavlova on a platter. Pile on the whipped cream over the top, nestle the pears amongst the cream, and sprinkle over the nuts. Drizzle over some of the chocolate sauce (if the sauce has been in the fridge, you will need to reheat it a little in the microwave to make it pourable).
- Serve straight away (or within an hour) with extra chocolate sauce, and some of the orange saucedrizzled over top.
- Store any left-overs in the fridge.