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Individual Negroni Pavlovas

by Alexina Anatole from Bitter

Turn your favourite cocktail into a beautiful dessert with this recipe for individual pavlovas topped with a grapefruit and Campari caramel, grapefruit pieces, and gin-spiked cream. Perfect for your next dinner party.

Introduction

This dessert is an evolution of one I cooked on MasterChef (but this time designed to be less of a faff and easier to get right!). The elements and flavours of the original dessert have been reborn here as a pavlova, which is always a crowd-pleaser. Truthfully, I’ve never been a fan of meringue – I find it a blandly sweet concoction; it needs the oomph of something sour or bitter to counteract the sweetness. Grapefruit bolstered with Campari (see also the Grapefruit Margarita cocktail on page 55 of Bitter) and a gin-spiked cream places the flavour profile in the realm of a Negroni – that intensely bitter cocktail that people either love or hate (appropriate, really, as the original dessert was a tribute to my dear late friend, Robert, who was famous for his delicious but lethal sloe gin Negronis). It is a perfect example of bitter on bitter (grapefruit, Campari, gin), soothed with cream and (slightly) offset by sweetness.

The meringues can be baked the night before and left in the oven overnight. Please know that meringue is a temperamental beast affected by all sorts of conditions outside of your control, such as temperature and humidity, so if it doesn’t turn out perfectly, do not take it personally (as I have done, far too many times).

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Ingredients

For the meringues (or use store-bought):
5 (about 130g/4½oz) fresh egg whites
240g (8½oz/scant 2½ cups) icing (confectioners’) sugar
1 tsp lemon juice (or a mild vinegar, such as apple cider vinegar)
zest of ½ grapefruit
For the caramel:
100g (3½oz/½ cup) sugar
100ml (3½ fl oz/scant ½cup) water
1 star anise
½ tsp coriander seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
150ml (5fl oz/scant ⅔ cup) fresh grapefruit juice
25ml (1fl oz/1 tbsp plus 2 tsp) fresh lemon juice
50ml (2fl oz/3 tbsp plus 1 tsp) Campari
For the gin-spiked cream:
2 tbsp icing (confectioners’) sugar
pinch of fine sea salt
600ml (1 pint/2½ cups) double (heavy) cream
100ml (3½ fl oz/scant ½ cup) sour cream
4 tbsp gin (I like a London Dry Gin e.g., Tanqueray)
For the topping:
3 grapefruits, peeled, segmented and drained
3 amaretti biscuits (optional)

Essential kit

You will need: electric hand whisk or stand mixer.

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Method

Preheat the oven to 120°C fan/140°C/275°F/gas 1 and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper or a silicone baking mat.

To make the meringue, place the egg whites in a scrupulously clean bowl and whisk until soft peaks are achieved. Gradually add the sugar, a spoonful at a time, whisking well to incorporate between each addition. You should end up with a stiff, glossy, white meringue. Add the lemon juice and whisk again, adding another spoonful of sugar if you feel that the mixture has softened a little too much. At the very last minute, fold the grapefruit zest through the meringue and then create 6–8 individual meringue nests on the prepared baking tray. I find it easiest to scoop out the meringue using an ice cream scoop, then use the back of a spoon to spread out the meringue a little and create little craters in the middle.

Bake the meringues for 40 minutes, turning the oven down to 100°C fan/120°C/250°F/gas ½ after the first 10 minutes. Once cooked, turn off the oven and leave the meringues to cool in there for at least 2½ hours, or overnight.

For the grapefruit and Campari caramel, put the sugar, water, star anise and coriander seeds in a heavy-based pan and set over a medium heat. Cook gently, tipping the pan every so often, until the sugar has dissolved. Turn the heat up so that the sugar starts to caramelise. Do not step away from the pan. Take the sugar to a stage where it is a deep golden brown, then stir in the citrus juices and Campari. The caramel will seize when you do this, but do not panic, just allow the heat to melt the caramel back down. When it’s smooth and glossy again, boil it for another 30 seconds, then remove from the heat, strain out the spices and leave to cool completely.

Just ahead of assembling the pavlovas, make the gin-spiked cream. In a large bowl, add the icing sugar and a pinch of salt to the double cream and whip until thickened but not quite holding. Gently fold in the sour cream, followed by the gin.

Slice half of the grapefruit segments for the topping into smaller pieces.

An hour before you want to serve, partially assemble the pavlovas. Add a spoonful of the caramel along with some of the chopped grapefruit into the base of each pavlova. Add a generous dollop of the gin cream on top, flatten out slightly with the back of a spoon, then set aside. Just before serving, drizzle over more grapefruit caramel, top with 2–3 grapefruit segments, then crumble the amaretti biscuits over the top (if using). Serve only to Negroni fans.

MAKE AHEAD: The meringues can be made up to 1 day ahead and should be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the oven. Refresh them in a low oven if they’ve softened a bit. The caramel can also be made ahead and stored in the fridge for 2–3 days – just bring to room temperature before using.

TIP: I like to whip cream by hand (rather than with an electric hand whisk), because it gives me greater control. You also want to err on the side of under-whipping the cream, as when you start agitating it with a spoon it will thicken up further.

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