When I started thinking about what GBBO bake we should do for July, I immediately thought something light, fresh, easy and perfect for summer. Eton Mess is all of that and more.
Eton Mess (pronounced “eat-un mess”)…what is it? Literally a pile of smashed meringues, whipped cream, and strawberries.
You don’t need a recipe for this, because I’m telling you that is ALL it is. You can go out and get store-bought meringues, a can of whipped cream, and a pack of strawberries and it will be pretty nearly just as good. But I’m going to go ahead and give you a recipe below anyways—one that’s just a teensie bit fancified, to justify it.
To any of our readers out there who haven’t felt quite up to the monthly GBBO challenge, this will be a welcome reprieve. Even with the fancifications below, pretty much anyone can make this dessert and not break a sweat. You can’t mess it up…it’s supposed to be a mess.
Speaking of which: Where does the name “Eton Mess” come from? It is thought to have originated from Eton College, the British boarding school for boys. It was served up starting around the 1930s and has become a school tradition, and British tradition, ever since. Oh, and the “mess” part is because, no matter how hard you try, it’s just a soft jumbled amorphous mess.
About the recipe
Once I decided on making Eton Mess for the July GBBO challenge, I set out to find a Paul or Mary recipe. This proved trickier than I initially thought. Although the show has featured variations on Eton Mess (Eton Mess jelly role, Eton Mess Meringue sandwiches, Eton Mess cake, etc.) it doesn’t appear there has been a Signature Bake or Technical Challenge devoted to Eton Mess. Probably because this requires almost no technique to make.
But! It is so quintessentially British and so fabulously delicious and something you might not otherwise think to make, so I decided to press onward with Eton Mess as this month’s bake.
I found a Paul Hollywood recipe in his cookbook “Paul Hollywood’s British Baking.” That formed the foundation for the recipe below.
2 egg whites
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon diced freeze-dried strawberries
2-3 drops red/pink food coloring
[for strawberry filling]
1 lb fresh strawberries, washed and hulled
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
[for whipped cream]
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
special equipment: parchment paper, piping bag, medium star tip (see notes), food processor or blender.
Make the meringues. Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites at medium-high speed until foamy and just beginning to form stiff peaks. Continue beating at medium-high, adding the sugar in by the tablespoon, until the mixture turns thick, white, glossy and holds a stiff peak. Go slowly—this should take 5-10 minutes.
Divide the whipped egg whites in half. Into one half, fold the diced freeze-dried strawberries. Into the other half, add 2-3 drops of red or pink food coloring and gently fold until combined. Spoon the two mixtures into a piping bag fitted with a medium star tip (see note). On the prepared sheets, pipe out small roughly 3/4-inch stars. Bake the meringues at 250 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until they are hard, dry and easily lift off the parchment paper. Let cool completely (if you can spare the time, it’s better to turn off the oven, crack the door open and let the meringues cool slowly…but it’s fine to speed it up and place them on the counter!). Once cool, store in an airtight container until ready for assembly.
Prepare the strawberries. Use a small pairing knife to quarter half of the strawberries. Place the other half of the strawberries in a food processor or blender (I used my immersion blender) along with the sugar and puree into a smooth mixture. Fold the quartered strawberries into the puree. Store in fridge until ready for assembly.
Assemble the Eton Mess. When you are ready to serve, beat the remaining sugar and heavy whipping cream until stiff. Into pretty bowls or cups, layer in the meringues (crushing them slightly), strawberries and whipped cream. Enjoy immediately!
piping tip: you can just use a small (1/2 inch) round tip to pipe small coins or kisses, or you could just cut off the tip of your piping bag!
filling the piping bag: I like to place my parchment bag in a tall glass cup, fold the end of the bag out and around the rim of the cup, and then spoon one mixture so it drips down one side of the bag, and the other mixture so it drips down the opposite side. That way, when you pipe, the two separate colors come out at the same time.
soggy meringues: if the middles of your meringues are soggy or soft, they just didn’t dry out enough. Mine were pretty near perfect and sitting on the counter when the swamp cooler was turned on and flooded the house with humid air, turning the meringues soft. I just popped them back into the oven on very low (about 190 degrees) and let them dry out again for 20 minutes or so, and that did the trick. But that’s why it’s a good idea to store them in an airtight container, especially in humid environments!