In primary school I studied the German language. When I reached grade three I was given two choices Japanese or German and it will come to no surprise to you that my decision, even way back then came down to food. You see I had one encounter with Oktoberfest as a tiny year one tot roaming the school grounds that remained with me for years, one that provided enough gastronomic evidence to sway my language decision years later.
One day, as if by instinct, I stumbled away from my usual year one play ground and gravitated towards a culinary festive celebration that had me hypnotised in delight and awe. As I peered through the window of the year seven classroom I noticed the entire room had been fully transformed, it was no longer an intimidating older kids classroom filled with charts and tables that I didn’t yet understand but a room decorated with delight and filled with cheer.
I could see a gigantic black, red and yellow striped flag that almost covered the entire black board, the room was strewn with similarly hued streamers and all of the children no longer donned their usual school uniforms, they instead were wearing what seemed to be olden day green overalls with tiny green hats to match. Where school desks and chairs once stood was now filled with beautifully decorated long tables groaning under the weight of masses of delicious looking food that smelled incredible, even all the way from the window. I could see platters and platters of sausages, sauerkraut, schnitzel, delicious bread rolls and there were even pretzels hanging on red string from the ceiling. I stood there listening to children laughing as they played and danced to polka music, they all seemed to be having the time of their lives and I was fascinated.
Before I was ushered by the school bell back to class, I noticed one last delight. At the end of the incredibly long table, perched so proudly on a silver cake stand, stood the most amazing cake my little eyes had even laid upon. It was covered in deep dark shards of delicious chocolate, lashings of whipped cream and was topped with bright red cherries. I later came to know this wonderful cake creation as Black Forest Cake. As I scrambled back to class the only thought on my mind was I must be part of that party one day, so when the choice of language studies came up it was a no brainer for me.
And to this day I still adore black forest cake. I love the kirsch soaked chocolate sponge, the lashings of whipped cream, the mountains of chocolate shards and of course the beloved morello cherries. Black Forest Cake it truly a celebration cake and for me, one that imparts beautiful flavours for Christmas cooking.
This year my Christmas Pavlova has been inspired by my wonderful black forest memories. I have forgone my usual angelic pale pavlova and gladly spiked my creation with dustings of cocoa to form a chocolate pavlova. I also added molten, melted, deep dark chocolate to my whipped cream that nestled serenely on top of the pavlova. My final black forest flourishes were by way of chocolate dipped cherries and an adornment of dark chocolate shards. Enjoy, K x
Black Forest Pavlova
Adapted from Nigella Lawson
6 large egg whites
2 cups superfine sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1 tablespoon corn flour
1 teaspoon balsamic or red wine vinegar
2 cups heavy cream
100g dark chocolate, melted
Chocolate dipped cherries:
Punnet of cherries
100g dark chocolate, melted
100g dark chocolate
Preheat the oven to 150°c and line a baking sheet with parchment. Draw a 9-inch-diameter circle on the paper with a pencil, tracing a round cake tin that size. Flip the paper over so your meringue doesn't touch the pencil marks - you'll still be able to see the circle.
Beat the egg whites with a mixer until satiny peaks form, and then beat in the sugar a spoonful at a time until the meringue is stiff and shiny. Sprinkle the cocoa, corn flour and vinegar over the egg whites and gently fold everything with a rubber spatula until the cocoa is thoroughly mixed in.
Secure the parchment to the baking sheet with a dab of meringue under each corner. Mound the meringue onto the parchment within the circle, smoothing the sides and the top with a spatula.
Place in the oven, then immediately turn the temperature down to 120°C and cook for one to one and a quarter hours. When it's ready, it should look crisp and dry on top, but when you prod the center you should feel the promise of squidginess beneath your fingers.
Turn off the oven and open the door slightly; let the chocolate meringue disk cool completely in the oven. When you're ready to serve, invert onto a big flat bottomed plate and peel off the parchment.
Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Holding the cherry by the stem, dip one cherry into the melted chocolate, allowing the chocolate to come half way up the cherry, allow excess chocolate to drip off the cherry then place on the parchment paper to set. Continue until all cherries are coated in chocolate.
Whisk the cream till thick but still soft. Add the melted and slightly cooled chocolate and pile it on top of the pavlova, top with chocolate coated cherries. Coarsely grate chocolate over the pavlova. Serve immediately.