Triple Chocolate Pavlova

Can I just talk for a minute about that certain magic you find only in chocolate?  You know, the one the Mayans knew of and harnessed millennia ago?   The one that has been firmly embedded in our collective human consciousness ever since?  That craving that can be suppressed but never fully satisfied?  Chocolate is at once an aphrodisiac, an antidepressant, a stimulant to fuel passion and to excite creativity.  It’s the food of the gods that’s also known to lower cholesterol, increase life expectancy, prevent heart attacks, and boost the immune system.  Now, if you’re someone who likes to look at the facts, then you may find yourself wondering if dessert, rather than breakfast, is actually the most important meal of the day.  But, if you’re like me and tend to think with your stomach, then you already know that it is.

When I cook with chocolate I feel a little like a Mayan sorceress, stirring my cauldron over an open fire.  The moon above is full, the air is warm and I feel the heat rising as my wooden spoon traces glistening trails through the magical elixir in my pot.  Oh, I forgot to mention that chocolate is also a mild hallucinogenic.

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Now that I know the medicianal qualities of chocolate, I never feel guilty about self-medicating with it.  I’ve always said there are days that just require a little chocolate to get us through… and then there are days when we need a little more chocolate.  Take these last three weeks, for example: at the very beginging of the school year Connor came down with a cold that turned into a sinus infection and then he caught strep throat on top of that.  Meanwhile, Eva took a bad fall that resulted in a concussion and then came down with a virus that landed her on fluids in the Emergency Room.  Of course, I wouldn’t be writing this if they were not both finally feeling better this afternoon.  In my opinion, that calls for a triple dose of chocolate, and that’s where this Pavlova comes in.

Triple Chocolate Pavlova
There is one hard and fast rule for making free-standing meringue: you must use 1/4 cup of sugar for each egg white.  This ensures that the outside of the Pavlova will be firm and stable enough to support the filling.  Every other ingredient can be tweaked and fudged a little, but whatever you do, don’t skimp on the sugar.

for the meringue:
3 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
pinch of salt
3/4 cup fine white sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract (I like to use Rodelle Vanilla)
1/4 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp cocoa powder
chocolate chips (I use Guittard Chocolate chips)

Preheat the oven to 360 F (180 C).  Line a baking sheet with parchment.

With an electric mixer, beat the egg whites, cream of tartar and salt until stiff peaks form.  With the mixer running, add in the sugar one tablespoon at a time.  Beat until very stiff and shiny.  Beat in the vanilla.  Fold in the vinegar.  Lightly fold in the cocoa powder, just until chocolate-y streaks run through the egg whites.

Dollop onto the baking sheet and smooth into an even circle.  Place in the preheated oven and immediately turn the heat to 300 F (150 C).  Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes.   After baking, turn the oven off and crack the door, and let the Pavlova cool in the oven for at least 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool completely.  The center will cave in as it cools.  Fill the center with chocolate chips.  Top with chocolate whipped cream and drizzle with hot fudge sauce just before serving.

Chocolate whipped cream:
1 1/2 cups cream
5 TBSP powdered sugar
1 1/2 TBSP cocoa powder
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Beat all the ingredients together until stiff peaks form.  Dollop into center of the Pavlova, on top of the chocolate chips, or spoon into a piping bag and pipe into the center.

Hot fudge Sauce:
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3 Tbsp milk
3 Tbsp cream
1/2 Tbsp butter
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract

Place the chocolate chips in a bowl.  Heat the milk, cream & butter in a small sauce pan until it just comes to a boil.  Add the vanilla.  Pour over the chocolate chips.  Let sit for 1 – 2 minutes, then whisk until smooth and shiny.  Allow to cool slightly before drizzling over the Pavlova.

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