On my continuing quest to bring you some yummy English treats to celebrate the upcoming Royal Wedding, I introduce you to Eton Mess. If you haven't heard of this dessert or tasted it, let me just tell you that it is pure yumminess in a dish. In true English style, the ingredients are simple but the taste is anything but. It is simply meringue cookies (or nests), whipped cream, and strawberries all combined together, hence the name "mess." This dessert is absolutely perfect for this time of year when strawberries are coming into season. Also, in the summer if you don't want a really heavy dessert but crave something sweet, then this is a must-try! This dish was created at Eton College where Prince William attended school. It is said that this was one of his favorite desserts while attending school there and it is still one of his favorites today. And I have to tell ya that this is one of my hubby's favorites as well. Want some shortcuts to making this dish? See my time saving tips below!
For the meringue cookies*:
3 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 cup of white granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the whipped cream*:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon granulated white sugar
1 pound fresh strawberries
2 tablespoons granulated white sugar
Preheat oven to 200 degrees F and place the rack in the center of your oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In the bowl of your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue to beat the whites until they hold soft peaks. Add the sugar, a little at a time, and continue to beat until the meringue holds very stiff peaks. Beat in the vanilla extract. (Note: The meringue is done when it holds stiff peaks and when you rub a little between your thumb and index finger it doesn't feel gritty. If it feels gritty the sugar has not fully dissolved so keep beating until it feels smooth between your fingers.)
Bake the meringues for approximately 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours, rotating the baking sheet from front to back (about half way through) to ensure even baking. The meringues are done when they are pale in color and fairly crisp. Turn off the oven, open the door a crack, and leave the meringues in the oven to finish cooling. Makes about 12 - 2 1/2 inch meringues
Whipped Cream:In a large mixing bowl place the whipping cream,vanilla extract, and sugar and stir to combine. Cover and chill the bowl and wire whisk in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. When chilled, beat the mixture until stiff peaks form. If not using right away, cover and place in the refrigerator. (The whipped cream can be made several hours in advance.) I like to use my stand mixer for this - makes the job much quicker.
Strawberries: Place about one third of the strawberries in your food processor and process until just pureed. Or you can just mash them with a potato masher or fork. Cut the rest of the strawberries into bite size pieces and place in a small bowl, along with the pureed strawberries. Sprinkle the granulated white sugar over the strawberries and stir to combine (can be made about one hour before assembling the Eton Mess).
To assemble: Break five to six meringue cookies (use more or less if you like) into bite size pieces. Then fold the strawberries and meringue cookies into the whipped cream. Place in pretty dessert bowls or long stemmed glasses. And for extra strawberry flavor, drizzle with strawberry sauce. Serve immediately.
Makes 4 - 6 servings.
*Time Saving Shortcuts: Meringue cookies are super easy to make but many grocery stores now carry them already premade. You can sometimes find them in the bakery section or cookie aisle of your store. Don't want to make whipped cream? No problem, just use an 8 oz. tub of thawed Cool Whip! Also, the components of this dish can be made a few hours in advance (the meringue cookies can actually be made several days before and placed in an airtight container). But you don't want to assemble the final dish until right before serving. You don't want your meringue cookies to be mushy. Also, this is absolutely excellent with raspberries as well or try combining raspberries with the strawberries - yum!