Back in the day, when I was too afraid to make meringues (but loved them so much!), I learned about a little British dessert called Eton Mess. Basically, crushed up meringues, mixed with lightly sweetened whipped cream, and topped with some sliced strawberries. Brilliant, in my opinion. You’ve got the crunchy, you have the creamy, you’ve got the sweet and you have the tangy. And, on top of all of that, it’s supposed to look like a mess! It was the perfect dessert!
I knew that this was exactly what I wanted to make for my friends for a holiday dinner party I was having (I was so eager back then). But again, I was too intimidated to make the meringues. So I bought them, as well as the cream, and the strawberries (I was going to make a little balsamic strawberry compote to make up for the fact that I wasn’t making the meringues. I thought I was so fancy! Sigh.). When dinner plates had been cleared, I proudly got up telling my friends about the dessert I was about to assemble for them. I got to the tub of meringues I bought, I opened it up, and ta da, I had bought marshmallows instead.
I can’t express to you the magnitude of my sadness. Marshmallows?! People, all I had to do was buy the right type of cookie! And I failed at that. This was pretty scarring. It left me dinner-party-less for many years to come. You would only understand if you have ever served marshmallow whipped cream sandwiches for dessert.
It’s been years and I finally felt healed enough to attempt this again. But this time I made my own meringues, and made a pavlova, instead – you know, the fancier Eton Mess. Crunchy meringues, topped with a dollop of whipped cream, and to go with the winter holiday theme, some cooked up cranberries. I even made it look nice! I feel like I should include some moral and say that it’s always better when you make things homemade, but in truth, just make sure you read the label before buying cookies at your grocery store and your dinner party will be a success!
Cranberry Pavlova (adapted from Vintage Mixer)
- 4 large egg whites
- 1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 12 oz. bag of fresh cranberries
- 1 /2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 200 degrees, and lined a baking sheet with parchment paper. Beat egg whites on medium-low speed until frothy. Add salt and cream of tartar and continue to beat. Turn the mixer to a higher speed and slowly sprinkle in the sugar. You do not want to dump in all of the sugar at one time. Add vanilla. Beat on high until the egg whites have tripled in volume, they’re silky and glossy and they can stand up on their own.
Spoon egg whites on the baking sheet. Shape them with the back of the spoon so they are like inverted domes – with a dip in the center. Bake for 1.5 – 2 hours. They should have no color, but will feel firm to the touch. Let cool on baking sheet for 15 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack.
Meanwhile, make the cranberry compote. Heat together water and sugar over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Add cranberries and stir together. Continue to cook and stir until the cranberries just begin to burst and the mixture is syrupy. Take off the heat and add lemon juice. Let cool to room temperature.
When everything is cool and ready to assemble, make whipped cream. Beat cream on low speed until some air has been incorporated. Turn the speed higher and slowly sprinkle in the sugar and add vanilla. Continue to beat until the whipped cream is pillowy and soft peaks have formed.
To assemble: take one meringue disc and add a dollop of the whipped cream right in the center. Spoon cranberry mixture on top of the whipped cream. Enjoy immediately.