Carolyn Robb's Eton Mess
This indulgent dessert is a great summer picnic classic in England. More specifically it originates from Eton College (which was attended by Princes William and Harry.) It dates back to the nineteenth century when it was served at the annual ‘June 4th prize giving day’ – which, according to the school’s historical anecdotes was actually always held on the last Wednesday in May!This version of mine (more contemporary than the original recipe!) was a great favourite of Prince William’s. Here are some notes:
•The meringues can be made up to a week in advance. Store in an airtight container.
•You can use bought meringues if you are pushed for time – but homemade ones are much nicer!
•Do not assemble the dish more than a couple of hours before you are going to serve it as the meringues lose their crispness.
•For a more elaborate ‘dinner party presentation’ make little discs of meringue and layer them up in a stack with fruit and cream. Serve on individual dessert plates with a drizzle of fruit puree.
- 3 egg whites (at room temperature)
- 3 oz white caster sugar
- 3 oz golden caster sugar
- A few drops of pure vanilla extract
- 8 oz mixed berries (I use strawberries, blueberries and raspberries)
- ½ cup of raspberry puree or sauce (can be bought or made by blending 4oz raspberries with 2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar and a few drops of lemon juice, rub through a sieve to remove all pips before using!)
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ½ cup mascarpone
- 2 tablespoons caster sugar
- A handful of fresh mint leaves, very finely chopped
- A few extra mint leaves, for garnish
- Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting
Set the oven to 325°F.
Line two baking trays with non-stick baking parchment.
Make the meringues: In a dry clean bowl whisk the egg whites to ‘stiff peak stage – they should be glossy and stand in firm peaks.
Gradually add all the sugar whisking continuously. Continue for about 5 minutes until the mixture is very thick and stands up on its own. Finally add the vanilla extract.
Using two spoons place the meringue mixture onto the baking tray in small mounds – or if you have a piping bag use a medium nozzle and pipe small meringues.
Bake for 1 – 1 ½ hours. When cooked they will be firm and ‘crisp’ and will easily lift off the baking parchment. Check them after an hour and cook for longer if required. Once cooked, turn off the oven and leave them in there to dry out further while the oven cools down.
Wash, dry and prepare all the berry fruits.
Whip the cream until thick and then stir in the mascarpone, the sugar and chopped mint.
Assemble the dessert either in one large bowl or in 4 individual sundae glasses. Layer up the fruit and the cream alternately with the meringues and a drizzle of the raspberry puree, finishing with cream and then fruit.
Garnish with mint leaves and complete the dish with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar just before serving.
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