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This Thanksgiving Dessert is Not Pie (Thankfully)

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The case has been made: If you don’t want to make a pie at Thanksgiving, you just don’t have to do it. The Gods of Tradition will not frown upon you (they are also very sick of pie), and your family and friends will welcome the change.

Skip the whole thing. Throw caution to the wind. Stow your pie pan somewhere too high to reach for the remainder of the holiday season. And in pie’s place, to delight your guests post-dinner, I humbly submit: pavlova.

Photo by Alpha Smoot

Pavlova is weird, in the most fluffy and charming way possible — not, I imagine, unlike it’s namesake, ballerina Anna Pavlova (I don’t actually know if she was weird, but she was definitely fluffy).

A layered dessert of meringue, whipped cream, and fruit, it is crisp on the outside, marshmallow-y on the inside, and only slightly sweet. It is usually a summer endeavor, with bright berries tumbling over its sides or cherries stacked to a peak on top, but deep into fall this year I found myself Googling “pavlova” more and more often.

Not a fall pavlova.
Not a fall pavlova. Photo by James Ransom

Every version I found was simple but impressive, which is exactly what I want a holiday dessert to be. I wanted one on my Thanksgiving table so badly that I lassoed it out of last season and dragged it into this one.

Photo by Alpha Smoot

Autumnal pavlova looks like spiced meringue (cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, all the M.V.P.s) and pumpkin-maple whipped cream, with crunchy pecan brittle on top. It is lighter than air and dangerously easy to eat a wholeeeee lot of—the kind of dessert that adds to a big meal instead of piling more heaviness on top of it.

With coffee, it’s transcendental (I do not know this because I ate leftovers for breakfast; I know it for some other reason. I forget, doesn’t matter). One hundred percent guaranteed to make you want to change the T-Giv sweet tradition.

Pie who?

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Pumpkin Pavlova with Pecan Brittle

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Serves 6

For spiced meringue and pumpkin whipped cream:

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup pumpkin purée (homemade or canned)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup

For pecan brittle:

  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup shelled sunflower seeds (unsalted)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
  • big pinch flaky sea salt

Tags: gluten-free, dessert, baking, fall, pavlova, pumpkin, thanksgiving