Eton Mess is, as its name suggests, messy -- but in a delicious, fetching way. Comprised of layers of shattered meringue, whipped cream, and strawberries, it is beautiful in its own right, proof that broken things can be just as stunning as perfect ones.
A good Eton Mess always starts with meringues, those crisp, airy confections that look like glossy clouds and melt enticingly on the tongue. While meringues are dead easy to make, if you aren't careful you can end up with chewy ones instead of crunchy. My go-to recipe for meringues always includes cream of tartar and a good, long time in a warm (not too hot) oven.
Although store bought meringues are excellent for last minute dessert preparation, I much prefer homemade meringues where I can adjust the sugar levels so they aren't so staggeringly sweet. Many recipes call for 1/4 cup of sugar for each egg white you use, but it's unnecessary. Cutting down to one or two tablespoons per egg white instead will still result in a lovely meringue that doesn't make your teeth hurt.
Next is the creamy layer that offsets the often tooth-jarring sweetness of the meringues. While some stick with pure cream for this layer, I like the tang that the addition of plain Greek yogurt brings. It also adds toothsome body to an otherwise light as air dessert. The traditional creamy layer is usually flavored with sugar, but I prefer the mellow richness of real maple syrup instead. With both meringues and ripe fruit to sweeten the dessert, a creamy, tangy layer is a welcome addition that saves the dessert from being too cloying.
The final layer is fruit -- in this case, strawberries. But not just ordinary strawberries; these beauties have been marinated in a rich Earl Grey syrup overnight until the fragrance of bergamot flavors both the syrup and the berries.
This charming dessert lends itself to display in clear glass bowls, wine glasses, or even sundae dishes where the layers of meringue, cream, and berries can be fully appreciated and admired. I like to dust my Eton Mess with Earl Grey Strawberries with a fine smattering of chopped bergamot leaves that echo the flavors of the tea.
Eton Mess is one of those desserts that you can easily adjust to meet your flavor requirements. Instead of strawberries, try peaches marinated in ginger syrup, or cherries in syrup spiked with star anise. Add a teaspoon of cinnamon or cardamom to accompany a layer of mandarin orange segments or mix in a spoonful of your favorite liqueur to the creamy layer.
You can even play with your meringues. Turn them into dark chocolate meringues with the addition of melted dark chocolate, or coffee meringues by stirring in finely ground espresso powder.
Eton Mess with Earl Grey Strawberries
- 4 egg whites
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
In clean, dry bowl, whip egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar while beating until mixture forms stiff peaks.
Spoon onto a baking sheet covered with baking paper. Spread to form 3-inch rounds.
Bake for 45 minutes, then turn oven off and leave meringues in oven until completely cool.
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon powdered sugar or maple syrup
In medium bowl, beat heavy cream until soft peaks form. Gently fold in Greek yogurt and sweetener.
Earl Grey Strawberries
- 1 tablespoon Gratitude strawberry Earl Grey tea
- 1/4 cup boiling water
- 2 tablespoon white sugar
- 1-2 cups fresh strawberries, trimmed and quartered
- Bergamot leaves, chopped (optional)
Place tea leaves in heatproof bowl and pour over water that has just been boiled and is no longer bubbling. Let steep 2-3 minutes, or longer if you like it really strong.
Strain tea leaves and add sugar to remaining liquid. Stir until sugar dissolves and let mixture cool.
Pour Earl Grey syrup over strawberries and stir gently to coat. Let them marinate until you're ready to assemble dessert.
In one large bowl (or several small ones) crumble a layer of meringues, top it with the cream mixture, and top it with the strawberry mixture. Repeat until all ingredients are used.
Garnish with chopped bergamot leaves if desired, and serve right away.