Peeps, the Eton mess came about because of this. I had way too many egg whites on my hands and after making this with about half of the whites, I thought I’d whip up some slightly-crunchy-on-the-outside, marshmallow-y-on-the-inside meringue cookies using my mini pavlova recipe with the other half. However, my timing was way off (the cookies were small and I baked them to death) and I ended up with tasty, but over-the-top crunchy cookies. Nothing was marshmallow-y about these suckers.
I posted the pic of said crunchiness on instagram, and some lovely follower suggested I make Eton mess. Truth be told, I wasn’t exactly sure what that entailed, but back in the throws of my icebox cakes cookbook writing days, I remember an english friend telling me that one of my cakes reminded her of Eton mess. Therefore, I deduced that Eton mess must have something to do with whipped cream and cookies. And, I was right. Eton mess is essentially berries and crumbled meringue cookies folded into whipped cream and it is essentially a perfect dessert: hard to screw up, loved by the masses, and delicious.
I looked here and here and here for a little guidance on Eton mess proportions and whether it might be considered a make-ahead dessert (kind of my favorite type), as opposed to a post-dinner, make it while your guests are still sitting at the table sort of treat. And here’s what I gathered: the proportions of cream to cookies to berries is kind of sort of whatever floats your boat, tickles your fancy, etc. I’m not going to lie: although mine was unbelievably tasty, I will use less berries next time, as I did not have any of the traditional colorful ribbons of fruit throughout my cream, and instead had a uniformly pink cream, gorgeous though it was.
As for making the dessert ahead, although everything I read recommended doing it at the last minute, I took a chance and made it prior to my guests arriving — like at least three hours before it was to be served — and am oh, so happy to report that the wait did not effect the “mess” one bit. Perhaps the cookies might have been a tad crunchier had it been made at the last moment, but that can be easily rectified by crumbling a few more meringues on top, or folding them in, before serving — or serving a plate of the cookies along side the dessert. All good regardless of whether you crumble, fold or serve.
- 4 cups of heavy cream
- 2/3 cup confectioners' sugar
- 1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
- 8 cups berries or less depending on whether you want a ribbon-y look, or a uniform pink color
- 8 three to four-inch meringues or more/less, homemade or store bought
- whip the cream, confectioners sugar, and vanilla together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or in a mixing bowl using a hand mixer, until medium peaks form.
- fold in the berries a bit at a time, only until you have a ribbon-y effect, if that is what you are after or fold them all in for a beautiful pink hue.
- crumble the cookies and fold them in as well. transfer to a large serving bowl, or individual serving dishes. serve immediately, or place in the refrigerator for up to 3 hours.
macerating the berries: my berries were very soft and sweet and i didn't macerate them. however, if making a mess with strawberries, or any fruit that is not super juicy or sweet, you may want to macerate first with granulated sugar to draw out the juice and to sweeten.
homemade meringues: if making meringues from scratch use this recipe, but place small dollops of batter on your cookie sheets - this will produce crunchy cookies, perfect for a mess.