I am really not a great dessert person, but I distinctly remember two I loved. Oddly, both were eaten in Ireland.
One was a Sticky Toffee Pudding that I had one chilly rainy day, all alone, in a restaurant in Dingle Town.
The second was a Pavlova that I had in a hotel restaurant in Waterford after touring the Waterford Crystal factory. I had never had it before but I was sold! It was a layer of baked meringue, a layer of whipped cream and then topped with fruit. Delicious and a rather common special dessert in Ireland, as I was to come to find out.
But the English have their own take on that combination, fruit, meringue and cream, which goes by the lovely name of a Mess. Oh Wiki, tell us about it....
"Eton mess is a traditional English dessert consisting of a mixture of strawberries, pieces of meringue and cream, which is traditionally served at Eton College's annual cricket game against the pupils of Harrow School. The dish has been known by this name since the 19th century. According to Recipes from the Dairy by Robin Weir, who spoke to Eton College's librarian, Eton mess was served in the 1930s in the school's "sock shop", and was originally made with either strawberries or bananas mixed with ice-cream or cream. Meringue was a later addition, and may have been an innovation by Michael Smith, the author of Fine English Cookery. An Eton mess can be made with many other types of summer fruit, but strawberries are regarded as more traditional."The first time I ever heard of this dish was in an article about Prince William at the time of his marriage, how a so-called Eton Mess was one of his favorite desserts. In one ear..out the other...until I came to buy a big container of very ripe strawberries at Sam's Club this week and needed something to make. That very night I happened upon an article by David Levovitz about how he had all these cherries and decided to make a Mess, in his case a Cherry Mess. Then that very night I was reading a book, set in England, and the dessert at a banquet the hero attended was an Eton Mess.
It was kismet!! A Mess it would be!! But not too messy a Mess...
If you can buy pre-made meringues as many recipes call for, that's good. They are not available in my supermarket sadly, but they are easy enough to make.
I love David's addition of the candied almonds to the dish.
First, I love almonds.
Second they add a nice crunch.
Adapted from David Levovitz's Cherry Mess
For the fruit
4 cups strawberries...or fruit of your choice
1 tablespoon sugar
A few drops almond extract
Hull and chop the strawberries and put into a bowl, add the sugar and leave to macerate while you whip the cream.
For the candied almonds
1 cup sliced almonds
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoon water
A pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Spray or lightly coat a baking sheet with vegetable oil. Heat the water and sugar in a skillet until it starts to boil. Remove from heat and stir in the almonds and a pinch of salt, until well coated.
Scrape the almonds onto the baking sheet, break up any large clumps, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring once or twice during baking so they toast evenly. Remove from oven when golden brown and crisp, and let cool completely. Store in an air-tight container until ready to use.
|Almonds ready to go into the oven for a few minutes..|
For the meringues
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
Reduce the heat of the oven to 225ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a clean, dry bowl, or with a stand mixer, whip the egg whites on medium-high speed with a pinch of salt until they start to hold their shape. Add the sugar a tablespoon at a time, while continuing to whip, until it’s all incorporated and the meringue is stiff and shiny. Whip in the almond extract.
Divide the meringue into 6 mounds on the baking sheet, then flatten each one into a disk with a spatula or the back of a spoon. Bake the meringues for 1 1/2 hours, then turn off the oven and let the meringues continue to remain in the oven with the door closed, to dry out further, until they are cool.
For the whipped cream
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
In a chilled bowl, whip the cream until it holds its shape when the lift the whisk. Whip in the sugar until the whipped cream is thickened, but not too stiff.
|The parts, ready to assemble.|
To assemble the desserts...
Choose four wine glasses or other vessels. Spoon some of the fruit in the bottom of each glass with a little bit of the juices. Crumble 3 or 4 of the meringues into rough 1-inch pieces and fold them into the whipped cream – the cream should be pretty-well riddled with meringue pieces. Spoon some of that mixture over the fruit in the glasses and add a bit of candied almonds over the cream.
Continue to layer each glass with more fruit, a bit of their syrup, more cream with crumbled meringues in it, and a few candied almonds, however you wish, ending with a few berries and some of their syrup on top. Sprinkle each mess with a scattering of candied almonds and serve.
It seems like a rather long recipe, doesn't it, but each step is quite simple. And if you are serving for guests you can, if you wish, made all the parts... the fruit, the almonds, the whipped cream, the meringues... ahead, and just assemble right before serving. I must say, for me, the highlight of this dessert is those candied almonds. All the rest is very nice, especially the nice bits of the meringues in the whipped cream, but the little crunch of the nuts is excellent. An easy, delicious dessert and I suggest you make in in honor of the soon to be born new little British Prince or Princess!!
This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.