The Eton Mess is an old-school classic British dessert, which had lost its popularity and is now seeing a resurgence in pastry chefs who are looking back through history to learn from the old craftspeople of the time.
Simply, the eton mess is a delightful way to use the best of what's around: excess egg whites for the meringue, delicious sweet cream for the whipped cream, and unctuous red summer fruits for the tart, bright fruit compote. Here I have made it easy on you and called to simply purchase meringue shells at your local supermarket or better yet, small locally-owned bakery.
You could certainly make them on your own, however, the whole point of quick summer desserts is that they are easy on you! One more detail I like to include is to keep your serving glasses and mixing bowl in the freezer overnight before serving the following day. It helps keep an edge up on the summer heat! For serving vessels, choose nice tall glasses so you can really assemble lots of layers.
For the Red Fruit Puree, be sure to purchase the ripest red fruit you can find. Here I have called for raspberries and currants because of their super tart, bright flavors. You could easily substitute another tart berry from your region, be it wineberries, gooseberries, or even a white or black raspberry variety, or a bit of raspberry mixed with kiwi.
In a small saucepan, add half the raspberries and currants or berry of choice with the sugar and lemon zest. Set the remaining raw fruit aside in a medium bowl, and choose a few of the prettiest berries to reserve for the final garnish.
Over medium low heat, simmer the fruit and sugar, stirring and crushing it until it comes to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring as needed until syrupy, watching it closely near the end so as not to burn it. Fold in the remaining raw fruit, lemon zest, and crème de cassis if desired. Cover and chill until very cold.
It is ideal to assemble the Eton Mess around a half hour before serving it, so the meringue has a minute to soak up some of the whipped cream. You want to break the meringue up in pieces big enough that they don't dissolve completely in the cream, but small enough that you can layer it elegantly into your vessel. Crumble the Meringues into pieces, some just bigger than bitesize.
Using a frozen mixing bowl if necessary, whisk the heavy cream till foamy, and stream in sugar and vanilla extract, whisking on medium-high until firm peaks form.
Remove serving glasses from the freezer and place on a flat surface. Bring out your compote and have whipped cream, extra creme de cassis, and the meringue pieces nearby. Layer the meringue pieces in each glass with spoonfulls of the whipped cream and red fruit compote alternating in several layers to fill the glass. Give a fruit layer or two an extra half-shot of creme de cassis if you are feeling adventurous and are serving adults!
Cover and chill for up to 3 hours before serving. Crumble meringue pieces on top and garnish with a whole raspberry just before serving.
Red Fruit Compote
- 2 pints Raspberries
- 1 pint Red Currants or other tart berry
- 0.75 cup Sugar
- 1 whole Lemon zested and juiced
- 1 tablespoon Crème de Cassis optional
- 1.75 cups Heavy Cream full fat and well-chilled
- 2 tablespoons Sugar
- 0.75 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- 4 packaged Meringue Shells medium size
Red Fruit Puree
- In medium saucepan, add half the raspberries and currants with the sugar and lemon zest. Set the remaining fruit aside.
- Over medium low heat, simmer the fruit and sugar, stirring and crushing it until it comes to a boil.
- Reduce over medium heat until syrupy, watching it closely.
- Fold in the remaining raw fruit, lemon zest, and crème de cassis if desired. Cover and chill until very cold.
Red Fruit Eton Mess
- Whisk heavy cream with sugar and vanilla extract until firm peaks form.
- Crush meringue shells into bite-size pieces, and layer in a glass with spoonfulls of the whipped cream and red fruit compote alternating in several layers to fill the glass.
- Cover and chill for up to 3 hours before serving.