Pear and Chocolate Winter Mess

This simple recipe is a low-fat, winter alternative to the famous Eton mess (although it does contain a fair amount of sugar, so not that healthy). It’s made up of chocolate meringue, pears and something a little healthier than double cream. Happily, all the components can be prepared well in advance. For this month's We Should Cocoa challenge Chele of Chocolate Teapot has asked us to be health conscious – although health conscious with some chocolate attached, of course.

The amounts given here should serve 4, probably with some meringue left over, but it all depends how much of each element you fancy using.
Winter Mess

Chocolate Meringues

There's nothing particularly special about this method of making meringues, so use any method you prefer. In my oven this method gives me the combination of crumbly and chewy that I like for this dish but no two ovens seem to produce truly identical meringues in my experience. You could cut the quantity but I find using less than 3 egg whites a bit fiddly and I like having lots of meringue around in case of a national shortage.

3 egg whites
170 g caster sugar
½ tsp vanilla paste or extract
4 tbsp cocoa powder

Preheat the oven to 140°C. Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Keep whisking while you add the sugar one spoonful at a time until the whites are stiff and glossy. Briefly whisk in the vanilla and cocoa powder.

Place large spoonfuls of the mixture onto an oven tray lined with a silicone sheet or non-stick paper. You should get at least six meringues but don’t bother about being too neat because they’re going to get broken up anyway. Place in the oven for 50 minutes. Turn the oven off but leave the meringues in the cooling oven. Don't remove them until the oven is totally cold – overnight is best.

Poached Pears

To poach the pears, choose firm but ripe pears (3 should be plenty), peel and core them, cut them into quarters and rub them with lemon juice to stop them going brown. Make up some sugar syrup – for 3 pears, you’ll need around 600ml of water and 200g of sugar. Dissolve the sugar in the water over a low heat, add the pears and bring to a gentle simmer. Poach the pears until they’re soft but not falling apart, take off the heat and allow the pears to cool in the poaching liquid.

The Creamy Bit

Assuming that you're trying to keep this low fat, then there are a number of alternatives to whipped cream for this bit of the dish. I used a low-fat Greek style yoghurt, which I strained overnight through muslin to give an even thicker result. You’ll need at least a 500g tub and maybe a little more. Alternatively, you could use fromage frais or, if that’s a little too thin for your taste, you could try mixing some chestnut purée with it.

To Serve

You can either mix the whole lot together or layer the three components. I chopped the pears into small pieces, drizzled half of them with a little crème de cassis and put the drizzled pears in the bottom of a glass. I topped the pears with some of the yoghurt and covered that with a layer of the broken meringue. I then layered on the rest of the yoghurt and finally the remaining (undrizzled) pears. Chill until required.


  1. This looks delicious. I am enjoying your blog.

  2. Oooh, that looks so naughty but nice!
    Pass a spoon please.

  3. Mmmmmmmmmm - that looks mighty fine to me and I wouldn't feel all that guilty stuffing my face with it ;0)
    Thanks for taking part in the challenge this month.

  4. That looks quite delicious. Diane

  5. Looks gorgeous. Pears and chocolate are such a good combo, and I like your twist of using chocolate meringues too.

  6. This looks lovely, and really healthy too.
    I have never made meringues, other than for the top of a lemon pie, so I will have a go....chocolate ones sound interesting.

  7. Love your idea of healthy Phil, it's nearly as good as mine ;-) But it does sound really good and looks pretty too. Not sure about the low fat yogurt though :(

  8. pear and chocolate is one of my all tiem favourite combos! im one o those weird people who cannot stand meringues and macaroons though, so may give that part a miss, or is that crucial. haha it would make the whole recipe alot simpler though;)

  9. This has one of your 5 a day so definitely healthy! ;-)

  10. What a heavenly & tasty appetizing elegant dessert, dear Phil!

    Waw!!! Yummie too! :) Great for a dinner party!

  11. Es una verdadera tentación un postre bien gourmet me encanta,abrazos hugs,hugs.

  12. This looks lovely and refreshing and definitely healthy in my book! :)

  13. Ooh I love the idea of a winter mess! Having recently discovered how wonderful poached pears are, your dessert sounds even more delicious!

  14. God forbid a national meringue shortage .... feeling light headed at the thought!!!

    Looks delicious Phil, but I have to admit I'd find it very hard to forgo the cream.

  15. What a fab looking pud! I'm firmly of the view that meringue is practically air and air doesnt have calories so that makes it very healthy. Love the name too!

  16. Nice!! Pears and chocolate..lovely!


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