Normally, I wouldn’t bother with making something sugar-free. I usually have no need to limit sugar intake. However, when a request is made, I will do my best to create something that is just as wonderful had I used sugar. This means deciding on the perfect recipe and then researching how to modify it in just the right way.
I, of course, would choose one of the only desserts that must have sugar; a pavlova. For those who don’t know, a pavlova is a meringue based dessert named for the Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova. The dessert was created in New Zealand during one of her tours. The best way I know to describe it would be to call it a meringue cake. When baked properly, it has a crisp outside and a soft inside. (Information found on Wikipedia.)
My basic understanding of making meringue is that the egg whites react with the sugar to create the crisp outside and the soft inside. There is not yet an artificial sweetener that can yet react exactly the same way sugar does with egg. So the pavlova will look amazing before going into the oven, but instead of rising and becoming crisp, it flattens a bit and becomes a spongy, cookie-like disk. Though it still tastes quite good.
After much research and finding claims from a few blogs that they had found the way to make a sugar-free pavlova, I decided to give it a try. I used Truvia as my sugar replacement since it was touted as the best substitute. I added a bit of cream of tarter. In one version, I even added corn starch as suggested. None of my three attempts came out quite right. Though we still ate two with gusto! The third was like a flat sugar disk.
The first attempt was the most successful. While it didn’t have the crisp crust, it did maintain the most body (it stayed nearly 2 inches thick). Since the first version wasn’t perfect, I decided to tweak the recipe a bit a few weeks later. The second version was a disaster! I added corn starch and the thing flattened like a pancake. It came out of the oven not even an inch thick! There was no was I could serve this version, so I quickly whipped up a third. For the third attempt, I lowered the amount of Truvia, and added in some real sugar. I don’t know that this helped any. This version was slightly thinner than the first version and a bit spongier.
Sugar-Free Chocolate Pavlova
(adapted from Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova with suggestions for sugar-free baking)
- 6 large egg whites (room temperature)
- 3/4 teaspoon cream of tarter
- 1 cup Truvia Baking Blend
- 3 Tablespoons unsweetened baking cocoa
- 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
- 2 ounces dark chocolate (cut into chunks) – I used a 60% cocoa candy bar
Heat oven to 350 degrees. On a piece of parchment paper, trace a 9 inch circle with pencil. Place the parchment paper pencil side down (you will still be able to see the circle).
In a clean mixing bowl, begin to whip egg whites and sprinkle in cream of tarter. When egg whites form peaks, begin to sprinkle in Truvia a spoonfull at a time. Then beat until shiny, about 5-8 minutes.
Gently fold in baking cocoa, red wine vinegar, and dark chocolate chunks. Make certain to mix cocoa in completely.
Reduce the heat of the oven to 300 degrees. Place the pavlova in the oven and bake for about an hour. When done baking, the pavlova will have a little give in the middle. DO NOT REMOVE FROM OVEN YET! When done baking, turn off oven and leave in oven until cool. Because of the delicate nature of the dessert, it needs to cool very slowly or it will collapse completely. I found the best results when leaving it in the oven overnight, but 3-4 hours will suffice.
I usually top the pavlova with homemade whipped cream and raspberries.