Easy-Peasy Pavlova – Red Berry with Dark Chocolate Ganache

Last Friday my parents and grandma came over for dinner. I needed a dessert that could mostly be prepared ahead, didn’t require much cooking on the night (as I’d be working all day), and was quite light – to follow a big course of fish and chips!

Still having a lot of eggs left and after a big success a few weeks ago – meringue seemed like the perfect solution.

So the pavlova idea came about – and I didn’t know it originated in New Zealand. As complicated it as it may seem, it really only takes 4 very simple steps.

1. Giant meringue

To make this size of meringue, i used 4 egg whites and 200g of caster sugar. You can see method I used, as before, here.

To bake, I drew around a large dinner plate on a sheet of greaseproof to give me a rough idea of the shape to make into, and gave it a quick spray with cake-release (I’d really recommend this, the paper will literally fall off the meringue after baking, otherwise it can be a bit tricky and your meringue may end up breaking).

I spooned the meringue mixture into shape, using a spatula to create a rim near the edge in which the rest of the ingredients would sit.

It baked in the oven at 140 degrees celsius for an hour, after which I switched the oven off and left the meringue in to completely cool overnight. Again I’d recommend this – because of the moist toppings, you really want a crunchy, crispy meringue base.

When you take it out of the oven, don’t be tempted to put it in the fridge. This will make it go soft. Instead leave it in the oven if you’re not using it, keep it in an airtight container, or, failing all else, carefully out it onto a plate and cover with a clean, dry tea towel, storing somewhere cool.

2. Whipped cream

I found a 300ml pot of double cream was the perfect amount for this size of pavlova. It took about 3-4 minutes to whip, using my stand mixer on a high speed.

If you wanted to make a lower fat version, an alternative such as creme fraiche or even yoghurt would still work well.

3. Fresh fruit

Take your pick! Whatever is in season, or anything else you fancy! Bananas, kiwis, cherries… Anything would work really. I used a big pile of fresh (hulled) strawberries and raspberries.

4. Dark chocolate ganache (optional)

A big thank you to Moo’s Pantry for teaching me that ganache doesn’t have to be made with cream.

For this I melted 75g dark chocolate with 20g butter, then in a separate pan boiled 75ml semi-skimmed milk with 50g caster sugar. Once the milk and sugar mix was boiling, I poured over the chocolate and butter mix, stirred well, and boiled for another 1-2 minutes.

By making this before I served the main course, it had time to cool and thicken slightly before I assembled the dessert.

Assembly is just as simple, everything in the order above, no need for neatness, patterns etc, just pile it all up! Add the ganache just before you serve so guests can see it running down the fruit and meringue as it’s cut.

I gave Rob the slightly daunting task of cutting it up without the meringue breaking – and he did a pretty great job (using a cake slice to take the pieces out helped a lot).

It was met with a Round of approval yums and wows… And between the 5 f us, was quickly demolished!

Baked Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake

A favourite in our house is the humble cheesecake, quick and easy to make, and keeps well in the fridge for sweet-tooth moments or dessert during the week.
I vary it by adding all different kinds of flavourings – depending on ideas I’ve seen around, ingredients in the cupboard, or just a craving for a bit of something!

This weeks I wanted to go for raspberry, having looked at the price of fresh ones in the supermarket (so winter’s not a time for fresh produce… who knew!) – I had the choice of tinned or frozen. Frozen seemed a bit more effort in terms of defrosting, and I wasn’t sure what they’d do to the texture either, so, with 2 cans of raspberries in my basket, I was all set.

I will post my proper cheesecake recipe at another point, but as this stage it was just the basic setup of low fat biscuit base, low fat cream cheese/quark, natural  yoghurt and sweetener, with eggs mixed in just before baking.

The tins were about half juice and half fruit, so I drained most of this away as I didn’t want to make the mixture too runny, and encounter the dreaded dilemma of a cheesecake that doesn’t set.

The first can went straight into the bowl and was well mixed in. On reflection I might keep all the fruit as a topping next time and go for white chocolate in the base. Next time…

Then the pièce de résistance – the swirl topping. I put the second tin of drained raspberries into a mug and used a spoon to mush them up into a paste. I also added a spoonful of raspberry jam to enhance the berry flavours and add some sheen to the topping.

With the rest of the cheesecake assembled, I carefully spooned the raspberry topping into a swirl on the top. Starting at the middle, I put a small amount on the spoon each time and placed it carefully on the top.

Everything in place, I put the tine VERY carefully in to the pre-heated oven, set the timer and crossed my fingers. One of my main worries was that the topping would just run across the surface and my pain-staking swirl-making would be ruined, but, 40 minutes later (a little longer than usual baking thanks to the extra moisture from the raspberries), and, tada!

Something else to work on for the future – making my biscuit base more robust! Although the majority of it stayed put, in my haste to experiment with the raspberries I probably skimped on the biscuit compacting step. Oops.