From an old Washington & Lee College spiral-bound notebook, written in green ink by my grandfather Robert Warren Howe Mish. Perhaps my family’s most time-honored dish, this dessert was served at every Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner I can remember. It was always called Angel Pie in my family, but in pastry chef terms it is a classic Pavlova. The recipe is often said to have originated in Australia.
The time in the refrigerator is very important to the finished dish because it allows the whipped cream to soak into the meringue. And the chocolate grated on top really is unsweetened chocolate. The sweetness of the meringue balances the bitter chocolate.
Pavlova recipes that I have seen often include fresh fruit atop the whipped cream layer. We tried this but went back to the traditional plain recipe.
I use a 14-inch shallow bowl as the “platter” for Angel Pie. Sometimes I make half the recipe and then you can use a large dinner plate. Remember to separate carefully the egg whites from the yolks because even a tiny amount of yolk or other fat will greatly reduce the whites’ ability to increase in volume.
8 egg whites
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
2 ½ cups sugar
2 pints heavy whipping cream
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
Line a large pan the size of a 14-inch pizza pan with parchment paper. Putting a little butter on the bottom of the paper helps it stick to the pan. Beat egg whites. When they begin to foam, add cream of tartar. Beat until the egg whites form stiff peaks, and add sugar slowly, beating well. Pour into the lined pan. Bake 1 to 1 ¼ hours in 275ºF oven. Turn off oven, open oven door a little and let cool in oven for ½ hour. Turn upside down on platter, remove brown paper. This is the meringue layer.
Whip the heavy cream until it makes soft peaks. Ice the meringue layer with the whipped cream. Grate as much bitter chocolate as you like over it. Put in refrigerator for 4-18 hours.
Note: To halve this recipe, use a 10-inch pan. (Of course we all remember that the area of a circle is πr-squared. Thus the area of a 14-inch pizza pan is 49 (radius of 7, squared) times 3.14 = about 154 square inches. Half of 154 is about 77 square inches, corresponding to a radius of 5, or a 10-inch pan. Now we are excused from math for the rest of the day.)