3 large egg whites (3 ounces or 90 grams)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 cup (150 grams) superfine or caster sugar (if you don't have superfine sugar simply take granulated white sugar and process it for about 30 seconds in a food processor)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (240 ml) heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon (15 grams) granulated white sugar
1 pound (454 grams) fresh strawberries
2 tablespoons (30 grams) granulated white sugar, or to taste
Meringue Cookies: Preheat oven to 200 degrees F (105 degrees C) and place the rack in the center of your oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In the bowl of your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue to beat the whites until they hold soft peaks. Add the sugar, a little at a time, and continue to beat until the meringue holds very stiff peaks. Beat in the vanilla extract. (Note: The meringue is done when it holds stiff peaks and when you rub a little between your thumb and index finger it does not feel gritty. If it feels gritty the sugar has not fully dissolved so keep beating until it feels smooth between your fingers.)
Before placing the cookies on the cookie sheet, place a little of the meringue on the underside of each corner of the parchment paper. This will prevent the paper from sliding. Then, using two spoons, place 10 equal sized mounds of meringue onto the prepared baking sheet.
Bake the meringues for approximately 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours, rotating the baking sheet from front to back (about half way through) to ensure even baking. The meringues are done when they are pale in color and fairly crisp. Turn off the oven, open the door a crack, and leave the meringues in the oven to finish drying overnight.
Meringue Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for several days.
Makes about 10 - 2 1/2 inch (6 cm) meringues
Whipped Cream: In a large mixing bowl place the whipping cream, vanilla extract, and sugar and stir to combine. Cover and chill the bowl and wire whisk in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. When chilled, beat the mixture until stiff peaks form. If not using right away, cover and place in the refrigerator. (The whipped cream can be made several hours in advance.)
Strawberries: Place about one third of the strawberries in your food processor and process until just pureed. Alternatively, you can crush them with a potato masher or fork. Cut the rest of the strawberries into bite size pieces and place in a large bowl, along with the pureed strawberries. Sprinkle the granulated white sugar over the strawberries and stir to combine (can be made about one hour before assembling the Eton Mess).
Eton Mess: Break five to six meringue cookies (use more or less if you like) into bite size pieces. Then fold the strawberries and meringue cookies into the whipped cream. Place in pretty dessert bowls or long stemmed glasses. Serve immediately.
Serves 4 - 6 servings.
Eton Mess is a delicious combination of fresh strawberries, whipped cream, and meringue cookies. Its name "Eton Mess" pays tribute not only to the place where it was invented, Eton College (which is one of Britain's most famous public schools whose alumni includes 18 Prime Minister's of Great Britain), but also to the fact that the cream, strawberries and broken meringue cookies are all just mixed together in one big bowl that looks, frankly, like a bit of a mess.
This is a very simple dessert that needs to be assembled just before serving so the pieces of meringue stay nice and crisp. Luckily, though, there are only three ingredients involved and most of the prep work can be done in advance. For starters, the meringue cookies can be store bought or if you prefer making your own, as I do, than they can be made several days beforehand. Next, the cream can be whipped several hours in advance and stored in the refrigerator, and the strawberries can be cut and sweetened about an hour in advance.
So let's talk about each of the three components of an Eton Mess. First, I really like the flavor of Homemade Meringue Cookies. They are so airy, sweet and crisp that they seem to almost melt in your mouth. The outsides of the meringues are nice and crisp, yet the insides remain wonderfully soft and puffy, almost like a mini-Pavlova. You can use as many cookies as you like in the Eton Mess, so use the recipe as a guide only. For more information on making Meringue Cookies.
Next, the strawberries. For maximum flavor, make this dessert when strawberries are in season. When buying strawberries, look for ones that are bright red, plump, firm, with no white or green "shoulders" at the stem end. The green leaf-like cap or hull should still be attached and it should not be brown or wilted. There should be no soft spots, bruising or mildew. Always check the underside of the container to make sure there are no squashed berries or juice (sign of overripe berries). If not using immediately store in a single layer on a paper towel-lined tray in the refrigerator.
Finally, we need to whip the cream. Cream is a very important part of this dessert as it binds everything together. Cream is the fat that rises to the top of whole milk. It has a smooth, satiny texture and is labeled according to its butterfat content (heavy to light). When making an Eton Mess use 'Heavy' Cream or Heavy 'Whipping' Cream which means it has a 36 - 40% butterfat that will double in volume when whipped and hold its form. Because of its superior flavor, I recommend using an organic brand of heavy whipping cream.