Creamy Pumpkin Eton Mess
Truth: Some people just aren’t fans of pumpkin pie, but that’s because they’ve never had a bite of Erin McDowell’s creamy pumpkin Eton mess. Allow her to explain.
“Eton mess is usually made with fresh fruit or jam,” the author of The Fearless Baker tells us, “and that is really delicious…but this is a fall-ified version of Eton mess. It’s sort of like eating a bite of pumpkin pie with whipped cream, but with meringue instead of pie crust. It tastes just like what you think pumpkin pie tastes like.
“This is also a really easy recipe to make if you just want to use store-bought meringue cookies,” she continues, “but if you make your own, you can add a little dusting of pumpkin pie spice to the top to zhuzh them up.”
As far as presentation goes, McDowell assures us that there’s no wrong way to do it: “You can crumble some of the cookies, you can leave some of them whole for the presentation, you can even let people build their own if someone wants just a bite of dessert or someone wants a big bowl. You can build it in one large serving bowl, you can build it on plates…it’s such a flexible thing.”
We’d like one big serving bowl all to ourselves, please and thank you.
Meringue Cookies (See Note)
6 large (340g) egg whites
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
1⅓ cups (265g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pumpkin pie spice, as needed for finishing (optional)
6 ounces (170g) cream cheese
1⅓ cups (151g) confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1½ cups (345g) heavy cream
1 cup (227g) pumpkin puree
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of fine sea salt
1½ cups (338g) chewy caramel candies, unwrapped
⅓ cup (77g) heavy cream
Ground cinnamon, as needed for finishing
1. Make the Meringue Cookies: Preheat the oven to 300°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites and cream of tartar until the mixture becomes white and frothy, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar in a slow, steady stream and continue to whip to stiff peaks. The meringue should be smooth and glossy. Whisk in the vanilla.
3. Transfer the meringue to a piping bag fitted with a large star tip. (Use two different sizes or shapes of star tips to make different effects.) Pipe one tray of small (½ inch) cookies and one tray of larger (1 inch) cookies onto the parchment paper, leaving about half an inch in between each cookie. If desired, top some or all of the cookies with a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice.
4. Transfer the baking sheets to the oven and immediately lower the oven temperature to 250°F. Bake until the cookies feel dry to the touch, 40 to 45 minutes. Turn off the oven and let the meringue cookies sit in the oven for 1 hour.
5. Make the Pumpkin Cream: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar on low speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Scrape the side of the bowl well, then add the vanilla and whisk to combine.
6. With the mixer running on medium speed, add the heavy cream in a slow, steady stream and continue whipping until the cream reaches medium peaks.
7. Gradually add the pumpkin ¼ cup at a time, whisking well to combine. Add the cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and salt, and mix to combine. Refrigerate until ready to assemble.
8. Make the Caramel Sauce: Place the caramels and cream in a heat-safe container. Microwave in 15-second bursts, stirring after each, until the caramels are melted and the mixture is smooth.
9. To Finish: Fill six glasses, dessert dishes or bowls with layers of pumpkin cream, then meringue cookies, then caramel sauce, building up to finish the dish. Garnish with an extra drizzle of caramel sauce and a pinch of ground cinnamon.
Note: You can skip steps 1 through 4 and use store-bought meringue cookies instead: You’ll need about 8 ounces (226g) of cookies.