Whip Up Dessert

These creamy, snow-white holiday sweets will have you sitting on cloud nine. Added bonus—they're better for you too!


By STELLA PARKS
Photos by LEIGH BEISCH

Clementine & Cocoa Nib Meringues

Active: 30 min Total: 3½ hrs

To make ahead: Store airtight for up to 2 weeks.
Equipment: Pastry bag with ¾-inch star tip

These crunchy meringues taste like those break-apart chocolate oranges that sneak their way into some Christmas stockings. If you don't have a star-tip and pastry bag, improvise with a gallon-size plastic bag (snip ½ inch off one corner). Look for orange flower water and cocoa nibs in the baking section of natural-food markets and well-stocked supermarkets.


  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons clementine zest
  • 1 tablespoon clementine juice
  • ½ teaspoon orange flower water (optional)
  • ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup confectioners' sugar
  • 3 tablespoons raw cocoa nibs, plus more for garnish

  • Position racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 200°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Fit a large piping bag with a ¾-inch star tip. Hold the tip steady, give the bag a twist near the tip and tuck the twisted portion into the tip. This forms a stopper to prevent the meringue from flowing out until you're ready. For hands-free filling, set the piping bag tip-end down in a tall, wide glass and fold the top few inches of the bag over the glass to hold it open.
  • Combine egg whites, granulated sugar, clementine juice, orange flower water (if using) and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip on medium speed until opaque and white, but not yet fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Increase to medium-high and continue whipping until the meringue is very shiny, as thick as shaving cream and holds stiff peaks when the beater is lifted, 5 to 10 minutes more (this timing will vary considerably depending on the power of your mixer).
  • Meanwhile, pulse confectioners' sugar and cocoa nibs in a food processor until finely ground, about 90 seconds.
  • Sprinkle clementine zest and the cocoa-sugar over the meringue and gently fold in until just combined. Transfer to the piping bag. Fold or twist the top of the bag down to close.
  • Pull the piping tip to dislodge the “stopper,” then squeeze gently until the meringue begins to flow. Pipe 6 rows of four 1½-inch “kisses” per baking sheet, about 1 inch apart. Sprinkle with additional chopped cocoa nibs, if desired.
  • Bake the meringues until firm and completely dry to the touch, about 1½ hours. Turn off the oven and leave the meringues in, with the door closed, for 1 hour more. Remove and let cool to room temperature.

Makes: 4 dozen 1½-inch meringues (1 meringue each)

Calories 25, Fat 0g (sat 0g), Cholesterol 0mg, Carbs 5g, Total sugars 5g (added 5g), Protein 0g, Fiber 0g, Sodium 8mg, Potassium 10mg.

Vanilla Marshmallows

Active: 45 min Total: 1¾ hrs

To make ahead: Prepare through Step 5 up to 3 days ahead. Store finished marshmallows airtight at room temperature, with wax paper between layers, for up to 2 weeks.
Equipment: Candy thermometer

You won't believe how much better homemade marshmallows are than traditional store-bought ones until you taste one. Box up a few of each flavor (see “Flavorful Fluff,” below) to give as gifts. You'll want to rely on the horsepower of a stand mixer to make these—hand mixers aren't typically powerful enough to get the job done.


  • 3 envelopes unflavored gelatin (6¾ teaspoons)
  • 1 cup cool water, divided
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract or seeds from 1 vanilla bean
  • 1¾ cups granulated sugar
  • ⅓ cup plus 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ⅓ cup packed confectioners' sugar for dusting

  • Mix gelatin with ½ cup cool water in a small bowl, then stir in vanilla extract or seeds (no need to fully incorporate the vanilla seeds, if using; they will disperse later on). Set aside.
  • Combine the remaining ½ cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring with a fork, until the syrup begins to simmer around the edges, 5 to 8 minutes. Clip a candy thermometer or other heatproof digital thermometer to the pot, making sure it's submerged in the liquid but not touching the bottom of the pot. Increase heat to medium-high and simmer without stirring until the syrup registers 250°F, 5 to 10 minutes more.
  • Remove from heat and transfer the thermometer to the bowl of a stand mixer. Scrape the hot syrup into the bowl with a heatproof spatula and let cool to 212°, 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Add the gelatin mixture to the syrup and mix on low speed with the whisk attachment for 1 minute. Increase to medium-high and whip until the fluff is roughly tripled in volume and balled up around the whisk, 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Lightly coat an 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray. Scrape and smooth the fluff into the prepared pan. (If the mixture seems sticky, lightly oil or spray a spatula to help you smooth it into the pan.) Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. Or cover with foil and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
  • To cut marshmallows: Sift a bit of confectioners' sugar over the marshmallow, then invert the panful onto a cutting board. Sift more confectioners' sugar over the exposed surface and rub until no longer sticky to the touch. Cut into 36 marshmallows with a chef's knife, wiping the blade clean as needed. Put the remaining confectioners' sugar in a sealable bag and shake a few marshmallows at a time in it until the cut sides are no longer sticky.

Makes: 3 dozen 1½-inch marshmallows (1 marshmallow each)

Calories 57, Fat 0g (sat 0g), Cholesterol 0mg, Carbs 14g, Total sugars 14g (added 14g), Protein 1g, Fiber 0g, Sodium 12mg, Potassium 1mg.

Flavorful Fluff

Gingerbread

In Step 2, reduce corn syrup to ⅓ cup and add 3 Tbsp. molasses. In Step 4, after whipping the marshmallow fluff, reduce speed to low and incorporate 1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon, 1½ tsp. ground ginger and ¼ tsp. each ground nutmeg and cloves.

Cherry

In Step 1, mix gelatin in ½ cup 100% pure tart cherry juice instead of water. In Step 2, use 1 cup 100% pure tart cherry juice in place of the ½ cup water. It will take few extra minutes to reach 250°F, concentrating both the cherry flavor and color.

Looking for the best marshmallow to top this year's sweet potato casserole? Come to eatingwell.com/webextra for a recipe for Sage Marshmallows.

Banana Cream Pudding Parfait

Active: 40 min Total: 4 hrs 40 min (including 3 hrs chilling time)

To make ahead: Prepare through Step 5 up to 5 days ahead. Finish Step 6 and refrigerate the assembled parfaits for up to 4 hours.

Banana-infused milk is the base of this intensely-flavored pudding. Folding it with whipped Greek yogurt gives it a mousse-like texture. Layers of toasted hazelnuts add a bit of crunch. Top with slices of banana brûlée for an easy-but-optional finishing touch.


Banana Pudding

  • 1½ cups reduced-fat milk plus 2 tablespoons, divided
  • 2 large or 3 small very ripe bananas, sliced
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin (2¼ teaspoons)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup nonfat dry milk
  • ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup reduced-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Layers & Topping

  • 3 medium firm ripe bananas, sliced
  • ¾ cup coarsely chopped toasted hazelnuts

  • To prepare pudding: Bring 1½ cups milk and banana slices to a simmer in a small nonreactive saucepan (see Tip, page 92), then remove from heat. Cover and let stand for 1 hour. Or cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day.
  • Mix gelatin with the remaining 2 tablespoons milk in a medium bowl, stirring to break up any lumps. Set a fine-mesh sieve over the bowl.
  • Add sugar, dry milk and salt to the banana-milk mixture; cook, stirring, until the dry ingredients have dissolved and the milk is steaming hot (do not let it boil), about 5 minutes.
  • Pour the milk mixture through the sieve into the gelatin, pressing on the bananas to extract as much milk as possible without actually mashing the pulp through the sieve. (Use the leftover pulp in a smoothie or muffin batter, or discard.) Whisk until the gelatin is dissolved. Cover and refrigerate until firm and cold, at least 3 hours and up to 5 days.
  • Scrape the chilled pudding into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and whip on medium-high. At first it will look something like cottage cheese, but continue beating until smooth, about 1 minute. Return the pudding to its original container. Combine cream, yogurt and vanilla in the bowl and beat on medium-high for 5 full minutes. Fold into the pudding.
  • To assemble parfaits: Spoon ¼ cup pudding into each of 6 parfait glasses. Top with 3 or 4 banana slices and 1½ tablespoons hazelnuts, then another layer of banana slices. Spoon on another ¼ cup pudding and top with the remaining banana slices and hazelnuts. (To learn how to “brûlée” the banana slices for the topping, see page 92.)

Serves 6: about ½ cup pudding & 2 Tbsp. nuts each

Calories 348, Fat 18g (sat 6g), Cholesterol 35mg, Carbs 41g, Total sugars 32g (added 17g), Protein 10g, Fiber 3g, Sodium 100mg, Potassium 517mg.

Eggnog Pie with Cranberry Sauce

Active: 1 hr 20 min Total: 10 hrs 20 min (including 9 hrs chilling time)

To make ahead: Cover and refrigerate sauce, filling and crust separately for up to 5 days; refrigerate the assembled pie for up to 1 day.
Equipment: 9-inch glass or ceramic pie pan (not deep-dish)

This festive pie combines the flavors of gingerbread and eggnog. An easy cranberry sauce balances the sweetness with a touch of tart. To lighten the load of holiday baking, each element can be prepared up to 5 days ahead.


Cranberry sauce

  • 1¼ cups cranberries, fresh or frozen, thawed
  • ½ cup unsweetened cranberry juice
  • ½ cup sugar

Gingersnap Crust

  • 8 ounces gingersnaps or crisp ginger cookies
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Filling

  • 1¼ cups reduced-fat milk
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • ¼ cup bourbon or brandy
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup reduced-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • To prepare sauce: Bring cranberries, cranberry juice and ½ cup sugar to a boil in a small nonreactive saucepan (see Tip, page 92) over high heat. When the first cranberry pops, reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the cranberries have popped, 10 to 12 minutes more. Remove from heat, transfer to a nonreactive container and let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until ready to serve.
  • Meanwhile, pulse cookies in a food processor until powdery; add butter and salt and pulse until moistened. Transfer to a 9-inch glass or ceramic pie pan (not deep-dish) and press into the bottom and up the sides.
  • Bake the crust on a sheet pan until firm, 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack.
  • To prepare filling: Bring milk to a simmer over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Meanwhile, whisk sugar, cornstarch, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt and ginger in a medium bowl, followed by egg yolks and bourbon (or brandy). Whisk in ½ cup of the hot milk, then whisk in the remaining milk in two more additions. Pour the mixture into the saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking slowly but constantly, until the custard is actively steaming and starts to thicken, about 6 minutes. As soon as it starts to bubble, set a timer and continue whisking vigorously for 2 full minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Press plastic wrap directly on the surface and refrigerate until cool, at least 1 hour and up to 5 days.
  • To assemble pie: Combine cream, yogurt and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on medium-high with the whisk attachment for 5 full minutes.
  • Stir the custard until creamy. Fold in about ¼ cup of the whipped cream mixture with a spatula, then gently fold in the rest.
  • Transfer the filling to the prepared crust, smoothing into shape with the back of a spoon. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or up to 1 day before slicing. Serve topped with the cranberry sauce.

Serves 10: 1 slice pie & 1½ Tbsp. sauce each

Calories 355, Fat 14g (sat 7g), Cholesterol 105mg, Carbs 51g, Total sugars 34g (added 30g), Protein 4g, Fiber 1g, Sodium 195mg, Potassium 162mg.

Stella Parks is a pastry chef and food writer living in Lexington, Kentucky. Find her on Twitter: @thebravetart