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Dessert becomes bit of fluff

This stunning chocolate meringue piled high with whipped cream and fresh berries looks over the top, but this airy dessert won’t weigh you down.

For a plain meringue, simply leave out the cocoa powder.

Chocolate Berry Pavlova

Start to finish: 3 hours, 15 minutes (45 minutes active)

Servings: 8 to 10

2 teaspoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

6 egg whites

Pinch of salt

1-1/4 cups superfine white sugar

1 teaspoon white vinegar

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

3 cups heavy cream

4 tablespoons powdered sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 cups assorted fresh berries (if large, sliced)

Fresh mint leaves, to garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, mix together the cornstarch and cocoa powder. Set aside.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the egg whites and salt on medium-high until they form soft peaks, about 2 minutes. With the mixer running, slowly sprinkle in the sugar and beat until the eggs form stiff peaks.

With the mixer on low, add the vinegar and almond extract. With the mixer still running, sprinkle in the cornstarch mixture and beat until just incorporated.

Carefully spoon the mixture onto the center of the prepared baking sheet, using a rubber spatula to gently spread it into about a 12-inch circle (about 2 inches thick) with a slight dip at the center. The mixture should resemble a thick, shallow bowl.

Bake for 1-1/2 hours, then turn off the oven and allow the meringue to cool for 1 hour in the oven.

Once the meringue has cooled and just before serving, make the whipped cream. In a large bowl, combine the heavy cream, powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Use an electric mixer to beat until very thick.

To assemble the pavlova, carefully remove the meringue from the parchment paper and place on a large serving tray or platter.

Mound the whipped cream in the center, then top with fresh berries. If desired, garnish with fresh mint leaves.

To serve, use a serrated knife to cut the pavlova into wedges.

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