What is an Americana to do without a Cucina? Summer vacation is now a distant memory and I have returned to Milan, to my new apartment full of boxes to unpack and furniture to assemble. This would all be only a minor inconvenience if it weren’t for the horrific fact that my apartment is still currently without a kitchen: no oven, no countertops, no stovetop, no refrigerator. In the seemingly endless wait for the plumbing to be adjusted, the electrical rewired and all the pieces to be delivered and assembled, I have been surviving off of pizza delivery and sandwiches from the bar downstairs. Cakes like this one, which require an oven, a stovetop and a refrigerator are only a memory, as distant as summer vacation itself. I refuse to despair, however, because the kitchen I await will be far superior to any of my previous ones, and I am excited to share it with you all. Stay tuned and follow me on Instagram for a daily account of my kitchen(less) adventures.
Almond, Chocolate and Berry Pavlova
For the meringue
- 9 egg whites
- 1/2 cup (50 g) almond meal
- 2 tsp cocoa powder
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- 1.8 oz (50 g) finely chopped chocolate
- 2 cups (400 g) caster sugar (super-fine white sugar)
- 1 tsp white wine vinegar
For the topping
- 4 cups (600 g) mixed berries (whole blueberries, raspberries and blackberries)
- juice from 1 lemon
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) fresh cream, cold
- 1 tbsp powdered sugar
- 21 oz (600 g) mascarpone cheese
- 1 cup (85 g) sliced almonds, toasted
For 10 servings
For the meringue: Preheat the oven to 300°F/150ºC and place rack in center of oven. Line three baking sheets with parchment paper and draw a circle with a diameter of about 8 inches (20 cm) on each sheet, using an overturned bowl as your guide. Turn the parchment paper over so the circles are on the reverse side.
Sift the almond meal, cocoa and cornstarch into a small mixing bowl, add the finely chopped chocolate; set aside.
Beat the egg whites with the salt until they hold soft peaks, using a stand mixer with a whisk attachment or hand beaters. Add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, whisking well after each addition to make sure it is fully incorporated. Continue to beat on high speed until the meringue holds very stiff and shiny peaks. The meringue should feel smooth between your fingers; if it feels grainy the sugar has not fully dissolved, so continue beating until it feels smooth. Add the vinegar and beat briefly to combine.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and sprinkle in the almond and chocolate mixture; fold gently with a rubber spatula until just combined.
Mound the meringue inside the circles drawn on the parchment paper, spreading and smoothing the edges. Place in the preheated oven and immediately reduce the oven temperature to 250°F (120°C). Bake the Pavlovas for about 1 hour or until the outside is dry. Turn the oven off, leave the door slightly ajar, and let the meringues cool completely in the oven (about two hours).
For the topping: While the meringues are cooling combine the berries, lemon juice and 1 tbsp granulated sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil then simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes. Strain berries into a bowl then return the berry juice to the heat and cook until reduced by over half. Allow to cool and pour into a small serving cup. Combine the cream and the powdered sugar and beat with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Place the mascarpone cheese in a mixing bowl and stir with a rubber spatula until smooth. Gently fold in the whipped cream until just combined. To assemble: Place one meringue disc on a serving dish and top with 1/3 of the cream mixture, 1/3 of the cooked berries and some toasted almonds. Repeat with the second and third meringue disc, stacking them on top of each other. Drizzle the top of the assembled cake with the reduced berry juice and serve immediately.