OK, so before we get into this recipe we must have a short storytime session. You see, way back in 2011. Before I moved to NYC, before my first cookbook, before all of this began, I went out for dessert one evening with one of my best friends to a restaurant in the neighborhood of Linden Hills in Minneapolis called Tilia.
While at that restaurant I selected and absolutely devoured a pear spice bundt cake that was on the menu. I immediately went home and HAD to recreate this amazing dessert. It’s what became my Pear Spice Cake which was the first recipe I ever created.
Jump forward to this spring when my cousin pointed me to a brilliant cook and baker on Instagram ZoëBakes (Zoë Francois). If you aren’t following her, do it NOW! Her videos are inspiring and her creations are beyond anything I could hope to create. My curiosity festered and I needed to learn more. I discovered that Zoë was the dessert chef at Tilia’s in Linden Hills. I reached out to ask one day and sure enough! She was the creator of that Pear Bundt Cake that inspired this entire adventure.
We’ve been in touch off and on since and I’m always amazed at what she comes up with and how effortless she makes each and every recipe. A few months ago she posted a stunning Pavlova which seemed to take Instagram by storm. I remember seeing some of the biggest names in food publishing taking note and rightly so. It was absolutely the crowning achievement of an elegantly simple show stopper.
It was that post that inspired tonight’s dessert. A simple, elegant pavlova filled with cream and butterscotch pudding and topped with hazelnuts and chocolate. Thanks, Zoë for all the inspiration!
Butterscotch Hazelnut Pavlova
Meringue Base (1 large pavlova, or 6 three inch mini pavlovas):
4 large Egg Whites
1 cup Granulated Lavender Sugar (blitz 1 cup sugar with 1 tbsp fresh Lavender buds)
1 tsp White Wine Vinegar
1 tsp Corn Starch
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 pkg Butterscotch Pudding (make per directions)
1 pint of Heavy Cream
2 tbsp Sugar
1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
Shavings of Semisweet Chocolate
For the meringue, heat oven to 300 degrees F. Using a pencil, mark out one circle the circumference of a 6-inch baking dish or for individual servings, mark out six circles about 3 inches in circumference on baking parchment. In a mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks, then whisk in the sugar, 1 tbsp at a time, until the meringue looks glossy. Whisk in the vinegar, cornstarch, and vanilla.
Mound up the meringue in the middle of the circle and then you can shape this with high sides and a slight divot in the middle. Same technique on a smaller scale for the mini, individual portions. Want a slick way to make this extra elegant? See Zoë Francois’ Instagram video and watch her make her pavlova. Bake for 1 hr, then turn off the heat and let the Pavlova cool completely inside the oven. The center will collapse slightly providing the perfect place for the fillings and toppings.
Before assembly, prepare the butterscotch pudding (make according to package directions) and whip the heavy cream together with 2 tbsp sugar and 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract. Place the meringue disk(s) on a cake platter or stand, spoon a nice dollop of the whipped topping, then add a good amount of the butterscotch pudding. Finally garnish with the chopped hazelnuts, cocoa nibs, and chocolate shavings. Serve right away, but it can be assembled an hour or two before serving for convenience.