Method1. Preheat the oven to 160°C / 140°C fan / gas 3 and line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper. Mix the espresso powder with a teaspoon of hot water in a cup (it will be thick, but don’t worry). Set aside.
2. Break the chocolate into a small bowl and microwave for 15 seconds at a time, stirring until melted. Pour half of the chocolate onto another sheet of greaseproof paper in a thin layer, then roll up and place in the fridge for 30 minutes. Set the remaining half aside to cool.
3. Beat the egg whites using an electric beater or mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar whilst mixing followed by the cornflour, vinegar and espresso until very stiff. Spoon onto the baking sheets to form 8 meringue nests around 8cm wide. Make a dip in the middle so the edges are taller than the centre (this is where the pears and cream will sit later). Drizzle a small teaspoonful of chocolate over each nest and swirl it around to create a pattern. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes then turn the oven off and leave the meringues to cool completely overnight with the door shut.
4. To make the cream, beat the mascarpone and just enough amaretto syrup from the pear jar until sweet, loosened but still thick. Dollop onto the cooled meringues followed by an upright halved baby pear. Remove the chocolate paper roll from the fridge, slowly unravel and break into shards.
5. Decorate with fresh fruit and chocolate shards and serve individually, or arrange in a wreath for a stunning centrepiece.
TipUse a blob of meringue mixture to secure the greaseproof paper in place on the tray before you place it in the oven.
• 100g dark chocolate (80% minimum cocoa solids ideally)
• 4 egg whites
• 225g caster sugar
• 1 tbsp cornflour
• 1 tsp white wine vinegar
• 1 tbsp instant espresso powder
• 250g mascarpone
• 1 jar Opies Baby Pears with Luxardo® Amaretto
• Fresh redcurrants
• Rosemary sprigs
• Fresh figs