Eton Mess is one of those magical desserts that looks impressive and yet is super easy to make. The word “mess” in the title is a good indication that you can’t go wrong here!
WHAT IS ETON MESS?
Eton Mess is a traditional English dessert that dates to the 1890’s. Legend has it that a dish comprised of strawberries, meringue and cream (or pudding, depending on the source) was dropped on the ground at an Eton versus Harrow cricket match. Rather than throwing the food away, it was scooped up and served — in all its smashed glory — in individual bowls.
More than a century later, Eton Mess continues to be a popular dessert, though recipes can now be found using a wide variety of fruits, and flavored meringue and cream.
And there is much to love about Eton Mess. As the name implies, it is meant to be served as a layered dish, with the meringues a bit crumbled to boot. So there’s no need to worry about a perfect, pristine presentation – the more jumbled the better!
It is also wonderful in any season. Though often associated with the holidays, by tweaking the fruit and garnish, you could easily serve this up in the spring with fresh rhubarb and mint, in the summertime with ripe peaches and thin slivers of basil, or in fall with sauteed apples and warm spices.
The cream can be flavored with your choice of extract, a bit of cocoa powder or any spices you like.
And even the meringue can be jazzed up with swirls of melted chocolate, pureed fruits or even finely chopped toasted nuts.
HOW TO MAKE EASY MERINGUE
Now you might see the word “meringue” and think that this automatically makes for a more complicated dish. Even the most confident bakers often feel anxious at the thought of whipping up egg whites, and yet once you understand a few essential tips, you’ll have perfectly stiff, glossy meringues in no time.
And working with duck eggs makes it even easier to ensure success as they result in more stable meringues that whip up to a higher volume too. This is because duck egg whites have more protein than the whites of chicken eggs.
HOW TO MAKE ETON MESS
The first tip is to start with room temperature egg whites. Eggs are easiest to separate cold, but then the whites should sit until there is not a speck of chill to them – 2 hours at least. If you forget and can’t wait, simply pop the mixer bowl into a larger bowl filled with warm water – this will speed things up.
And make sure that both the bowl and attachment are completely free from even a trace of grease or fat. These inhibit the whites from whipping up to maximum volume.
Next? Whip the whites low and slow to start. If you want meringues that don’t fall or flatten when baked, you need a strong base. The way to achieve this is to start whipping the whites on a low speed, to create tiny bubbles. Large bubbles (which you’ll get if you start at a higher speed) are much less stable. Then you can start ramping things up.
Once you’ve increased the speed a bit, add some cream of tartar. This helps stabilize the whites even more. When tracks start to form you can then add your sugar – slowly. You want to maintain that nice sturdy base you’ve worked so hard for. Once all the sugar is added, you can then crank the speed all the way up. Keep whipping until the whites are glossy, smooth and stiff. You’ll know they’re ready when you take the attachment off, turn it upside down and the tip of the meringue doesn’t flop over.
You now have perfect meringues, ready to bake! We’ve added a scoop of tahini to balance the sweetness; you’ll swirl that over the meringue just before you make the cookies.
We like to use an ice cream scoop to dole out the meringue onto the baking sheet; feel free to use a piping bag with a star tip or even just a spoon – they’ll look great no matter what!
You’ll bake the meringues on a low oven for a few hours, to dry them out. Let them cool in the turned-off oven for the crispiest cookies.
To create the Eton Mess, just before serving layer the crumbled meringues with whipped cream and your choice of fruit. We’ve chosen blackberries for their beautiful shape and jewel-tone, and cooked down some of the fruit to swirl in.
You can make this dish in one large bowl or use glasses or jars to create individual servings!
Eton Mess with Blackberries and Tahini
- 2 Duck Egg Whites (at room temperature)
- 1/4 tsp Cream of Tartar
- 1/2 cup Granulated Sugar
- 1/4 cup Tahini
- 2 cups Blackberries (divided)
- 2 tbsp Honey
- 1 cup Heavy Cream
- 1/2 cup Confectioner's Sugar
- Preheat the oven to 200° F; line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Beat the egg whites on low speed until frothy and completely covered in tiny bubbles.
- Add the cream of tartar and increase speed to medium.
- When tracks begin to form, add the granulated sugar, a little at a time, then increase the speed to high and beat till the mixture is stiff and glossy.
- Gently and quickly fold in the tahini, being careful not to over mix.
- Using an ice cream scoop or large spoon, dollop the meringue in 2 tablespoon-sized amounts onto your baking sheet.
- Bake for 2 hours, then turn off the oven and leave the oven door open for another hour.
- Remove meringues from the oven and set aside.
- Bring 1 cup of the blackberries and the honey to a simmer in a small saucepan – cook for 10 minutes, stirring and breaking up the fruit with the back of your stirring spoon.
- Let cool completely (you can pop the saucepan in the fridge to speed things up).
- In a separate bowl, beat the heavy cream until it starts to thicken, then gradually add the confectioner’s sugar and beat until stiff.
- Crumble your meringues and place the first layer of them at the bottom of a large serving bowl (or in individual jars, bowls or glasses).
- Top with some of the whipped cream, blackberry sauce and a few whole blackberries from your remaining cup.
- Repeat with your remaining crumbled meringues, blackberries and blackberry sauce and whipped cream, finishing with a few whole blackberries on top.
- Serve immediately and enjoy!