Believe it or not, there are people out there who don’t care for sweet pies. I’m not one of them, but there are legitimate reasons – celiac disease, egg or dairy allergies or a missing sweet tooth. But I think even sweet pie deniers can find room in their cold, deprived hearts for a cloud-like pavlova smothered in cranberry sauce, whipped cream, and plenty of fresh fruit.
Between the sweet, airy meringue, super-tart cranberry sauce, luscious whipped cream, and crunchy pomegranate seeds, every bite of meringue is a huge party, which is exactly what you want after a heavy meal. Whether you’re anti-sweet pie or just feel like making something totally different, I don’t think you could do much better.
Cranberry, Pomegranate, and Clementine Pavlova
Most pavlovas use French meringue for the base, but I prefer a lazy Swiss meringue here. It takes longer to dry out properly, but it’s so much easier to make that I find it worth the trade-off.
Rather than heating the egg whites and sugar over a water bath, I just zap ‘em in the microwave for a bit – it’s a hell of a lot faster. Every other part of this recipe is extremely low-effort: simmer up a quick cranberry sauce, whip some cream, toast a handful or two nuts, and that’s it.
For the meringue:
3 large egg whites
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar (or 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice or white vinegar)
Scant 1/4 teaspoon table salt
For the cranberry sauce:
1 pound fresh cranberries
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup brown sugar, plus more to taste
1 tablespoon clementine, lemon, or orange zest, plus more to taste
Big pinch of salt
2 cups freshly whipped cream, unsweetened or barely sweetened
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds, chopped toasted nuts, orange segments, julienned apples, or a little bit of everything
1 tablespoon clementine, lemon, or orange zest
Preheat your oven to 100 degrees Celsius. Trace a 25 to 30cm circle on a piece of parchment paper and lay it in a sheet pan. Set aside.
Thoroughly mix the egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar (or lemon juice or vinegar), and salt together with a fork in a large microwave-safe container.
Heat for 15 seconds, stir well with a flexible spatula, and rub a bit between your thumb and finger. If you can feel sugar granules, keep heating and stirring until you can’t. This took me about 45 seconds total.
Transfer the egg white mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whip on high heat until the mixture is thick, super-glossy, and holds stiff peaks, 4-5 minutes. Scoop the meringue onto the center of your parchment paper circle and nudge the edges outward, swooshing the top to your heart’s content.
Photo: A.A. Newton
Flop out your meringue onto the parchment...
Photo: A.A. Newton
...swirl it around to your heart’s content...
Photo: A.A. Newton
...and bake it low and slow until dry to the touch.
Bake the meringue for three hours at 100 degrees Celsius, or until the surface is dry to the touch. Increase the heat to 120 degrees celsius and bake for another fifteen to twenty minutes.
Crack the oven door, turn off the heat, and cool to room temperature, around an hour. If you’re not assembling the pavlova immediately, wrap tightly in plastic and store in a dry place for up to two days. It’s OK if the parchment sticks to the bottom – just wrap that up, too.
While the meringue bakes, make the cranberry sauce: combine the cranberries, water, brown sugar, citrus zest, and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat.
Reduce heat and simmer for five minutes, stirring occasionally, until thick and burbling. Have a taste and add a touch more sugar or salt if needed, but keep it as tart as you can stomach; the meringue is pure sugar. Cool to room temperature.
To assemble the pavlova, transfer the meringue to a serving platter. If yours is nicely dried out, you may be able to pick it right up off the parchment; if it’s sticky, which is fine, invert it onto the platter and peel the parchment off the bottom.
Plop the whipped cream on top of the meringue and spread it outwards with a spoon. Spread the cranberry sauce over top, and scatter the pomegranate seeds, nuts, and/or orange segments over that. Serve in slices – a wet knife is clutch here – or have at it with a spoon.
The meringue will soften the longer it sits, so eat it as soon as possible. It shouldn’t be too hard; there are only two people in my house and this is all we had left:
Not three hours later, the pavlova was gone. Like I said – it’s that good.