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Chocolate Pavlova Torte with Raspberry Dream Cream: Perfect Imperfection

As a teen, I remember having lots of conversations with my mother about dating and relationships.  Of her many “isms”, the one I heard most was “Looks aren’t everything.  It’s what’s on the inside that matters.”    Of course, she was right, but my superficial 16 year old brain didn’t always agree.  Before I settled down with Mr. SGCC, I dated a wide variety of boys.  Some were blindingly beautiful, and some had other, less obvious attributes.  More often than not, the pretty boys turned out to be a disappointment.   They were usually too busy flexing their muscles and  gazing at their own reflections in the mirror to worry about such mundane things as developing  a personality or perfecting the art of conversation.  Though I hate to admit it, it was almost always the slightly rumpled, kind of quirky guys that I had the best times with.  They were the ones that made me laugh and feel special.  They had substance.

Oddly enough, I’ve found the same thing to be true when it comes to desserts.  I can’t count the times I’ve drooled over a display of stunningly perfect pastries or cakes, only to be disappointed when I took that first bite.  Sadly, they don’t often taste as good as they look.   I guess looks aren’t everything in the world of sweets either.  This Chocolate Pavlova Torte with Raspberry Dream Cream is a good example.  On the outside, it looks kind of craggy, drippy and messy.  It wears its flaws for the world to see.  But on the inside, it is crunchy, creamy and chewy all at the same time.  It has personality up the wazoo.  And, it is truly sublime! 

A pavlova [1] is a meringue-based dessert with a crisp, crackly outer shell and a lovely, soft, pillowy center.  It is said to have been created in honor of the famed 20th century Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova.  It’s a light and ethereal dessert that is often served covered with fresh fruit and whipped cream.  In honor of Valentine’s Day, I’ve taken it a step further, studding mine with bits of rich dark chocolate and smothering it with an incredible silky and luxurious raspberry cream.

My Raspberry Dream Cream is inspired by Pierre Herme’s Extraordinary Lemon Cream [2] found in Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home To Yours [3]. I am absolutely mad about that lemon cream! So, when it came to finding a filling for my chocolate pavlova, I decided to adapt Dorie’s recipe using raspberries instead.   The method for making the cream is similar to that for making a fruit curd.  The difference is that the butter isn’t cooked with the other curd ingredients.  Rather, it is added in after cooking and cooling them, creating an emulsion.  Dorie says that because the butter doesn’t melt and re-firm, as it does with curd, the resulting cream is lighter, richer and well… creamier.   I can’t vouch for the science involved, but I can say that the cream definitely lives up to its name.  It is extraordinary, and it tastes like a dream!

To make the pavlova shells, I used my favorite recipe by Nigella Lawson [4].  They aren’t really difficult at all to make, but baking them can be a little tricky.  It is important to cool them completely inside the oven after baking to avoid having them collapse.  They are still delicious even if they do fall.  But, why not avoid that if you can.

You can see from the photos that my pavlova shells did not turn out perfectly.  Honestly, I didn’t dare cut it before I photographed it for fear of it falling apart!   Unfortunately, when dealing with large hunks of baked meringue, some cracks and dings are inevitable.  I like to think that these are part of their charm.   That said, it is amazing what copious amounts of cream and fruit can hide.  Don’t ask me how I know this.  Just take my word for it.

So, there you have it – an imperfect dessert that is just perfect as it is, flaws and all.  With this much personality, looks really aren’t everything.