I’d intended to pop this recipe in the December Sweet Adventures Blog Hop. As soon as Christina announced the theme ‘Sweets for Santa‘ I knew that this red and white dessert would be perfect. But then life goes ahead and happens, and things don’t always go to plan. Thankfully, the Eton mess is really easy to make, and while I didn’t get a blog post up in time it still made it onto our Christmas table.
In the early hours of this year’s Christmas Eve my granddad passed away. He’d been sick for a while, and after many Christmases that might have been granddad’s last one, this was the first one we were going to have without him. My aunt made a toast for him at dessert, his favourite meal, and I think every time I make this Eton mess I’m going to have a little smile thinking of granddad.
There are three things you need for a basic Eton Mess:
You can start getting fancy with other fruits and other flavourings, but sticking to these three means you’ll have a beautiful and popular dessert.
The meringues are the first things you’ll need to make. They’re a basic mix of sugar and egg whites. I used about 120g of egg whites to 240g of sugar. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks begin to form, and then start adding the sugar. I use caster sugar but you can use plain white sugar. Keep beating them till you have stiff peaks.
Then pipe the meringue into disk shapes on a lined tray. It doesn’t really matter if they touch, because you’ll be breaking them all apart in the end.
The oven should be preheated to about 120ºC, but once you put them in drop it to 90. They’ll take about an hour and a half to bake. If they don’t seem to have dried out enough leave them in the oven overnight (that’s what I did). Make sure it’s switched off!
The meringue can be made in advance, just make sure that it’s not too humid or they will lose their crunch.
On the day you’re planning on serving your Eton mess get set on the rest of the components. Wash and dice your strawberries, leaving some whole to decorate the top. I used around 4 regular sized punnets.
Then start whipping your cream, I used 1.2L of regular thickened cream, but it really depends on the size of your bowl. Once it starts to get thicker add in sifted icing sugar and vanilla bean paste. Add both to your taste.
In a large bowl mix the cream with most of the chopped strawberries and with the crunched up meringue. Save some of the strawberries to layer in the centre, and save some meringue to sprinkle on top. Spoon the mix into your serving bowl, and once it’s about halfway full cover it with a layer of chopped strawberries and some crushed meringue. Then spoon the rest of the mix into the bowl. Sprinkle the top with the remaining crushed meringue, and cut the tops of your remaining strawberries, placing them on top with their points in the air.
Now it’s time to enjoy.
Losing someone at Christmas makes it all the more special when you get to share it with those that are still around. Everyone hugged each other a little bit tighter this year, and while we all had our moments when we were wiping tears from our eyes, it was also a great time to be with family.
We spent Christmas Eve and Christmas lunch at my sisters house, Christmas morning with my four nieces is always my favourite part. They’ve recently all chosen new names for themselves to appear on the blog because I always seem to forget which pseudonym I refer to them by. Somehow my funny little nieces all went with flowers, the eldest is Poppy, then there’s Primrose (Prim for short), next is Daphney (nicknamed Daffodil), and finally Buttercup.
Buttercup insisted in helping me with the Eton mess, she mostly just played around with the meringues I wasn’t using, but she did help press in all the strawberries. At the funeral today she was so well behaved, only being a little cheeky while she sat on my dad’s lap. At one point it got a bit too much for her, and she just started crying because she couldn’t stand to see all the people she loved so sad, even if she didn’t really understand what was going on.
On Christmas Eve we all opened out secret admirer Peter Alexander pyjamas, except for Daffodil and Buttercup who had gorgeous pyjamas from Eternal Creations. I was lucky enough to get some great books for Christmas including How Baking Works, The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Pastry Arts, The Advanced Professional Pastry Chef, and Mad About Macarons. I also got the Heston’s Feast box set.
For us Christmas is about food, keeping old traditions and starting new ones (like watching Love Actually and opening our Christmas Eve pyjamas), but mostly it’s about family. This year did a great job at reminding me just how much I love mine.
What was Christmas like for your family this year? Did you have any special Christmas desserts?