I will never consider myself to be the kind of person who skips dessert. I love to celebrate birthdays, holidays, and other special occasions with a homemade dessert. It’s a fun way for me to contribute some of my TLC to a deserving friend or family member that everyone can enjoy. That said, I’ve grown more and more wary of desserts that are too sweet, too heavy, or simply too big. This is a sign that I’m growing up, right? I don’t just throw myself at just any dessert anymore… I’m pretty sure that means I’m getting better at this adulting thing.
Nowadays, especially with the lovely warming weather, I lean toward lighter desserts with hints of sweetness rather than heavy sugar bombs. Enter the almighty pavlova, Australia’s most important contribution to the dessert category. A pavlova is a large meringue topped with either whipped cream or fruit curd, fresh fruit, and other toppings. The size of the meringue makes is light and crispy on the outside, but pillowy and ethereally soft on the inside. Top that off with a creamy whip or curd and fresh fruit, and I’m quite positive there may not be another more satisfying dessert in existence.
Meringues are easily flavored by alcohol or bitters and showcase the more subtle flavors lost in cocktails. When Workhorse Rye released their Flowers & Cacao bitters, I knew it needed to meringue treatment. In the bottle, the bitters are potent and fragrant. Baked into a meringue, there is a fresh, floral nose backed by cacao and sugar sweetness. My mind built a beautiful whipped cream topping with macerated strawberries and cacao nibs from there. My work pals helped me bring it to life today just in time to share it with you for your Mother’s Day celebrations.
Just think, we always give our moms chocolate and a bouquet of flowers. Flowers & Cacao bitters are the perfect expression of that in one tiny bottle. Top the whole thing off with bitters macerated strawberries and a few edible flower petals, and we have a beautiful little number that will make Mom the happiest and you the best child.
FLOWERS & CACAO PAVLOVA
- 6 egg whites, room temperature (makes for easier whipping)
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 4-6 blasts Flowers & Cacao bitters, to taste
NOTE: A blast of bitters is the equivalent to a full dropper of your bitters bottle
- 1 half pint heavy whipping cream
- 1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar
- 1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 blasts Flowers & Cacao bitters
- Solstice Sweet Nibs
- Edible flower petals
- Other berries
Make the meringue:
Preheat your oven to 275 degrees. Using a stand mixer, beat the egg whites slowly (On a 10-speed mixer, I start at 3). Gradually increase the speed until the egg whites begin to create soft peaks. Begin adding the sugar 1-2 tablespoons at a time, allowing a few seconds between each addition. Increase the speed intermittently between additions, ending the addition of sugar at the same time your mixer reaches its fastest speed. Continue whipping until the meringue holds stiff peaks. Blast the bitters into the center of the bowl and beat for another 30 seconds.
Use a spatula to remove the meringue to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Use the spatula to shape the meringue into a circle that is about one inch smaller than the plate you plan to serve your pavlova on. Bake in the center of your oven for 75-80 minutes, or until the outside is dry and just beginning to brown.
NOTE: Meringue can be make up to two days in advance. Keep in an airtight container at room temperature
Make the toppings:
While the meringue is baking, stir sugar and bitters into sliced strawberries in a small bowl. Keep refrigerated and remove to stir a few times before serving. In another bowl, whip cream and confectioner’s sugar until the cream holds stiff peaks. Keep chilled until assembling your pavlova.
Assemble the pavlova:
Remove meringue to your serving dish. The edges will likely crack but don’t stress, it’s all part of the carefree form. Gently spread whipped cream on top of the meringue, stopping just before reaching the edge of the pavlova. Spoon strawberries over the whipped cream in an even layer. Finish off your pavlova with generous sprinklings of cacao nibs, flower petals, and any other fruit you’d like to use. Serve immediately.