Saturday, July 18, 2009

Eton Mess (otherwise known as LLG's dish of badness & wrongness)

I love making meringues: I have a passion for that dense marshmallow-y chewiness in the interior you can't get in commercial or restaurant offerings. When I was little, my mother, the ace cook, used to make them in the Aga using the recipe from Delia Smith's Book of Cakes and sandwich them together with dense whipped cream for birthday parties.

Today I made a deconstructed Eton Mess, an English fruit, cream & meringue concoction of utter simplicity. (Traditionally it shld just be strawberries, but I like a mixture of berries, and served all tumbled together.) To make the meringue base I use the following recipe, which makes two baking sheets of meringues, & which reads as follows:

8 egg whites
500gms/ 17oz white sugar (granulated or caster - either works fine)
3 heaped tsps cornflour/cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla extract
2tsps white wine vinegar

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Simply beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt till they are super fluffy, then, keeping the motor running, fold in the sugar a spoonful at a time. Then fold the vinegar, corn starch & vanilla into the glossy mixture. Then heap large spoonfuls (or pipe if you can be bothered) onto baking parchment onto two baking sheets, turn the oven down to about 150C/300F and cook for 30 minutes.

(You shld know that humidity can stop them rising so much, but that doesn't matter for this recipe as you will be breaking them up when cold anyway.)

Turn the oven off and leave the meringues in the cooling oven for 30 minutes to an hour. 30 minutes gives super marshmallow-y centres, the longer they stay in the oven the drier the centres.
To make LLG's version of Eton Mess, quarter a punnet of strawberries, and tip half a pint of blueberries into a bowl. Sift over a tablespoon of icing (confectioner's) sugar, & mix into the fruit. (This gives the fruit a lovely glossy sheen, adds some syrup. and stops it from drying out.) Pull the meringues into large chunks, and arrange on a large platter.

Whip a pint of double/heavy cream to soft peaks and spoon over the meringues. Then tip the fruit over the lot, along with any juices. Sift a dessertspoon of icing sugar over to serve. Fresh mint would be nice to garnish but I forgot. Eat.

I was convinced I had made way too much for five people, and actually didn't use all the meringues. I should have done: