This ultra-easy berry dessert with a funny name consists of a mixture of juicy macerated strawberries, broken pieces of meringue, and whipped cream.
This is a beloved sweet treat throughout England as soon as strawberries are in season.
One bite tells you why. Soft clouds of unsweetened whipped cream envelop crunchy sweet chunks of broken meringue and barely sweetened strawberries. What could go wrong? As it turns out: nothing! With only 6 ingredients and 15 minutes of your time, this is a dessert you’ll want to make for any lazy summer meal.
Of Course, Its Funny Name Has a History!
While the accounts cannot be verified (arguments persist), the main story goes that Eton mess evolved from a mishap at a cricket match between the rival boarding schools of Eton and Harrow. Supposedly an overexcited Labrador squashed a pavlova that was in a picnic basket set on the grass during the match. The dessert gained popularity in the 1920’s and has continued to be a beloved sweet treat throughout England as soon as strawberries are in season.
Look for Plump Red Strawberries
Local strawberries are always preferable when you can find them. They’re the sweetest and juiciest. Look for plump, bright red berries with fresh green leaves and no signs of mold. Store them in the refrigerator and rinse them just before using to prevent soft spots.
For Eton mess, you will slice them, set aside half of them, and mash the other half in a bowl with a little strawberry jam. The jam adds extra strawberry flavor and dissolves immediately, but if you don’t happen to have any, you could substitute granulated sugar in an equal amount, or to taste. Let the sweetened berries sit until the juices run and the sugar dissolves.
The Best Way to Not Overwhip Your Cream
Nothing fancy here, just plain old whipping cream beaten until soft peaks form. The best way to avoid overwhipping cream is to beat it only halfway with a mixer. Finish it by hand with a whisk. It should be billowy but not firm, with peaks that droop over themselves slightly. There’s no need to add sugar to the cream, since the meringues have all the sweetness you could want.
There’s no heavy lifting involved when you buy store-bought meringues. You should be able to find them in most supermarkets; the brand doesn’t matter. The size doesn’t matter either since you are going to break them up. You will need about 2 ounces for this recipe, but you don’t have to be too precise about the measurements. It’s not called a mess for nothing! And if you happen to have your own meringues leftover from another dessert, then lucky you, you should use them.
Other Fruits for Eton Mess
While a true Eton mess is eaten in strawberry season, why not keep the goodness going all summer with other fruits like raspberries, blackberries, peaches, or apricots? Even tropical fruits have been known to take the place of strawberries, so it’s up to your imagination.
Can You Make Eton Mess Ahead of Time?
While the dessert is intended to be assembled within an hour of serving, you could prep the berries, break up the meringues, and whip the cream halfway. Store the berries and cream for up to eight hours in the refrigerator and when you are ready to serve the dessert, all the components will be ready and waiting for you.
Here’s How to Use Up Those Pints of Strawberries!
- Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
- Sparkling Strawberry Sangria
- Strawberry Yogurt Popsicles
- Kale Salad with Strawberries, Goat Cheese, and Pecans
- Strawberry Shortcake
Toast the almonds:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until fragrant and golden. Cool the almonds on the baking sheet.
If you don’t want to turn on the oven, toast the almonds in a dry skillet (no oil) over medium heat. Stir constantly for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the nuts are lightly browned. Immediately transfer them to a plate to cool, since they can easily burn if you don’t watch them.
Crush half the strawberries with the jam:
Set aside some strawberry slices to garnish the finished dessert with.
In a medium bowl, toss half the strawberries with the jam. Using a potato masher or a fork, crush them coarsely. Let sit while you whip the cream.
Set the other half of the strawberries aside—everything will be mixed into the whipped cream.
Whip the cream, but not too firmly:
In a mixer bowl, combine the cream and vanilla. Beat until soft peaks begin to form. Once the cream is thickened halfway, use a wire whisk to beat it by hand to the desired consistency. The cream should be thickened but still soft and loose.
Fold the berries into the cream:
Add the crushed strawberries and the sliced strawberries to the bowl of cream and mix to swirl them in.
Assemble the Eton mess and serve:
In the bottom of 4 (8-ounce) serving glasses or bowls, place a spoonful of the strawberries and cream mixture. Top with a spoonful of broken meringue pieces. Continue to layer the strawberries and cream and the broken meringues into the dishes.
Top with toasted almonds and reserved strawberry slices and serve.
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