from my table: eton mess
Once upon a time, when I lived across the pond, I did something kind of odd.
I’m one of those people that plans for my future in small ways, mostly so when “then” becomes “now“, I won’t feel so overwhelmed. When I see something I like, I’ll think, “Someday, when I get married or have children, I would like that or do that or read this.” So I pick it up, take it home and store it away for those proverbial rainy days.
I’ve been told this is weird.
Anyway, back to my story.
So I was in London shortly after arriving in the UK, puttering around the Tower of London with my friends. We wandered into the gift shop outside the Crown Jewels and I saw something that caught my eye: a tiara. Not a gaudy, prom queen-esque one (such as the one I was forced to wear by my sisters on my 21st birthday), but a delicate, subtle and classy one. I’ve never been much for princesses or tiaras, but I took an immediate liking to this one. I didn’t know what I would do with a tiara at that moment in my life, but I thought, “Someday, when I get married, it would be special to have something like that to wear, as a token of this part of my life.”
Since I had just arrived in the country and didn’t think it necessary to drop £40 on something I didn’t really need (or make my new friends think I was completely mad), I decided when I came back at the end of term with my parents, if it was still there, I would buy it.
Months passed and I forgot about the tiara. Then came May, when my parents came to visit and we headed down to London. As we walked through the Tower of London, I remembered my vow. When we eventually went into the gift shop, I looked up and there it was, waiting for me. So I bought it.
And it has sat in my closet for five years.
To be honest, I’m not the same person I was at 21 and have no desire to wear a tiara when I get married.
So I have no clue what it’s for now.
But I’ll figure it out.
I tell this story as a lead-in to this week’s recipe for Eton Mess — a traditional English dessert that was given a modern update by former Royal Chef Carolyn Robb and featured in the last issue of Where Women Cook. She noted it was a favorite of Prince William’s and as such, I knew I had to make it to celebrate the Royal Wedding.
As a hardcore Anglophile, I was admittedly totally swoony over the whole affair. I sniffed, my heart went pitter-pat, I spent more time on the Daily Mail website than I would like to admit. I know it’s overpriced and over-hyped and whatnot, but there was something so very sweet about it. The handsome prince, the beautiful “commoner”, the fairy tale wedding; but mostly, a celebration simply of two young people who love each other and represent that part of us that longs to find and celebrate the beauty of love and hope. Along with the DVR and my parents, we toasted Wills and Kate with this delicious dessert, which left us licking out our bowls in a not-so-dignified way. My mother wore my tiara and we enjoyed indulging that part of us that still believes in fairy tales.
So whether or not the Royal Wedding stirred your fairy tale fantasies, this delightful dessert will certainly tickle your fancy.
3 egg whites, at room temperature
3 oz. granulated sugar
3 oz. brown sugar
A few drops of vanilla extract
4 oz. raspberries
2 tbsp. confectioner’s sugar
1/4 tsp. lemon juice
8 oz. mixed berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries)
1 c. heavy cream
2 tbsp. confectioner’s sugar
1/2 c. marscarpone cheese
Handful of very finely chopped fresh mint
A few extra mint leaves for garnish
Confectioner’s sugar for dusting
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line two baking trays with parchment paper.
In a clean, dry bowl, whisk the egg whites to a stiff peak stage; they should be glossy and stand in firm peaks. Add the granulated and brown sugar gradually, whisking for about 5 minutes, until the mixture is thick and glossy and stands on its own. Add the vanilla extract.
Using a piping bag and a medium star tip, pipe the mixture into small meringues. (If you prefer not to pipe, you could easily use two spoons and make small mounds.) Bake for about an hour, till they are light brown, crisp and firm; they should lift easily off the paper. Once they are done baking, turn the oven off and let the meringues remain inside to dry out further.
To make the raspberry sauce, place the raspberries, confectioner’s sugar and lemon juice in a small pan. Cook just until the raspberries are soft and beginning to fall apart. Whiz it up using an immersion blender or in a food processor, then strain through a metal sieve to remove all the seeds. (This works best if you use the back of a large spoon and work the pulp through the strainer.) You should end up with about a 1/2 cup of puree. Set aside.
Wash and dry the mixed berries. Alternately, if you’re like me and fresh berries aren’t in season in your area yet, you can use thawed frozen berries. They aren’t as pretty, but they taste better than the watery, overgrown fresh berries from the store. Whip the cream until thick, then add the sugar, marscarpone and chopped mint, whipping until just combined.
Assemble the desserts in either one large bowl or in individual glasses. Layer up the fruit and cream alternately with the meringues and a drizzle of the raspberry puree, finishing with cream. Garnish with fresh mint and a quick dusting of powdered sugar. A treat fit for a princess (as you can clearly see below…)!
Makes 4 servings