There are few summer desserts as divine as Eton Mess. Traditionally served at Eton College’s annual cricket game against Winchester College, it has also been sold in the school’s tuck shop since the 1930s. It’s a delicious jumble of bashed-up meringue, berries or other soft fruit, and whipped cream – like a Pavlova that’s fallen and can’t get back up. It’s light, sweet, crunchy, smooth, creamy – everything a summer dessert should be. Eton mess is also wheat and gluten-free, so perfect if you’re looking for a dessert made without flour. It’s also foolproof – nothing is required of the cook but to smash meringues and layer them with fruit and cream.
You could buy packaged or bakery meringues, if you like – no one will think less of you. And no one will be able to tell, since they’re all bashed up. But if you do want to give meringue a go, this is a good way to experiment, since in the end they’re all bashed up. Beat your egg whites and sugar until the mixture looks like shaving cream, then spread out on a baking sheet and bake until dry. Cool and bash.
After that you’re just layering meringues and strawberries and cream – that’s it. Ratio totally up to you.
Macerating the berries with some sugar will coax their juices out – mash them a bit too, if you like, or downright stew them, making them runny and jamlike.
Strawberry Eton Mess
Adapted from Delia Online
1 cup sugar
3 large egg whites
1 lb. strawberries, hulled and halved
3 Tbsp. powdered sugar (divided)
2 cups heavy (whipping) cream
Have the sugar measured out and ready to go. Place the egg whites in a clean bowl and beat until foamy with soft peaks; gradually add the sugar, beating on high speed, until the mixture stands in stiff peaks.
Spread the mixture about 1/2″ thick on a foil or parchment-lined sheet and bake at 250°F for 1 hour. If you want the meringue very dry, turn off the oven and leave it overnight. Otherwise take it out and set it aside to cool.
When you’re ready to assemble dessert, toss the strawberries with half the sugar, mashing them with a potato masher if you like to make them juicy. Beat the cream with the remaining sugar. Bash up the meringue into roughly 1-inch pieces. In individual glass dishes (or one big trifle dish) layer meringue, berries and cream, alternating as you go. Serve immediately or let sit for half an hour so that the meringues soften slightly. Serves 6-8.