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Eton Mess is a delicious combination of fresh
strawberries, broken meringue cookies, and lots of lightly sweetened whipped
cream. Its name "Eton Mess" pays tribute not only to the place where it was
invented, Eton College (which is one of Britain's most famous public schools
whose alumni includes 18 Prime Minister's of Great Britain), but also to the
fact that the cream, strawberries and meringue cookies are all just mixed
together in one big bowl that looks, frankly, like a bit of a mess.
This is a dessert that I like to assemble shortly before serving, so the pieces of meringue stay nice and
crisp. So let's talk about each of the three components of an Eton Mess.
First, the meringue cookies. While you can use store bought, I really like the flavor of Homemade Meringue Cookies. They are so
airy, sweet and crisp that seem to just melt in your mouth. The
outsides of the meringues are nice and crisp, yet the insides remain
wonderfully soft and puffy, almost like a mini-Pavlova.
You can use as many cookies as you like in the Eton Mess, so use the
recipe as a guide only.
Next, the strawberries. For maximum flavor, make this
dessert when strawberries are in season. When buying strawberries,
look for ones that are
bright red, plump, firm, with no white or green "shoulders" at the stem end.
The green leaf-like cap or hull should still be attached and it should not
be brown or wilted. There
should be no soft spots, bruising or mildew. Always check the
underside of the container to make sure there are no squashed berries or juice
(sign of overripe berries). If not using immediately store in a single
layer on a paper towel-lined tray in the refrigerator.
Finally, we need to
whip the cream. Cream is a very important part of this
dessert as it binds everything together. Cream is the fat that rises to
the top of whole milk. It has a smooth, satiny texture and is labeled
according to its butterfat content (heavy to light). When making an Eton
Mess use 'Heavy' Cream or Heavy 'Whipping' Cream which means it has a 36 -
40% butterfat that will double in volume when whipped and hold its form.
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