This is pure sugar and chocolate indulgence. Just think about it: thick dusty discs of chewy but soft chocolate meringue sandwiched with smooth chocolate pastry cream made with double cream and lots of melted dark chocolate.
I don't have a proper cake plate at the moment in Oxford, so I decided to improvise with a random selection of objects from my room: Sweet's Anglo-Saxon Reader, a tiny collection of Tennyson's poetry my great-grandfather gave my great-grandmother for Christmas in 1910 and a Tiffany's box.
One thing I do now have here is a shiny new Magimix 5200. It's gorgeous and I've become unhealthily attached to it in the 72 hours we've had together. So far it's made perfect pizza dough, pancake batter and whizzed my tomato pizza topping. I wasn't entirely convinced that it could really whip whites into a glossy meringue - surely I needed something that actually looked like a whisk. But no, the meringue I whisked in my Magimix today was the best I think I've ever made. Magic!
I was very pleasantly surprised by the pastry cream recipe - it tastes fabulous. Mine turned out a little thin but I just needed to keep it on the heat a little longer. I'll definitely make it again (or indeed, use the bit I have left), maybe to fill eclairs or profiteroles...
I made a few changes to Nigella's recipe: I halved it, I didn't use the cream on the top meringue or sprinkle it with nuts and I had to use balsamic vinegar in the meringue (which was surprisingly good).
This dessert is definitely more than the sum of its parts. I would suggest leaving half an hour or so between assembling and serving to let everything intermingle and 'mature' much like a macaron...
Gooey Chocolate Meringue Stack
(Adapted from Nigella Lawson's Domestic Goddess)
For meringue layers:
3 egg whites
150g golden caster
1 heaped tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp vinegar/lemon juice
Preheat oven to 140C. Draw three circles with a radius of 7cm on parchment paper and place on baking sheets. Whisk the egg whites until fairly stiff, then very gradually add the caster sugar till you have a thick glossy meringue. Sift the cocoa powder over the top and add the vinegar/lemon then fold in until homogenous. Divide the meringue between the three circles and spread them out evenly. Put into the oven for 45 minutes before turning the oven off and leaving them in there to cool. Kept in an airtight tin separated by parchment they will keep for a week or so.
For the chocolate pastry cream:
3 egg yolks
50g golden caster sugar
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp plain flour
150ml double cream
50g good quality dark chocolate, very finely chopped
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
Beat the egg yolks and sugar together, then add the flour and cocoa and beat well to incorporate. Warm the cream and milk in a small saucepan then add half to the egg mixture, beating well with a whisk as you go. Return to the rest of the milk/cream mixture in the pan and whisk again. Bring to the boil, stirring constantly until it thickens. Take off the heat and stir in the chocolate and vanilla essence. Once combined, remove to a bowl to cool, topping with greased baking parchment to stop a skin forming. Don't put it in the fridge.
When the pastry cream is cool, put one of the meringue layers onto the serving plate. Smear the top with pastry cream - I used about a third. Top with the next layer and squish slightly. Top with more pastry cream and then the final layer. Nigella smears the top too and adds nuts, but I decided to keep it plain. I would try to eat it the day it's served.
Serves about 5-6.