Eton mess was invented at Eton College in England in the 1930s and is now traditionally served there on June 4th, but we don’t stand on such ceremony in my family — we eat this as soon as Irish strawberries hit the shops and roadside stands, then make it more often than I care to admit all through the summer (certainly more than can be good for us with all that cream). I’m lucky in that you can buy meringues in practically any grocery store in Ireland, which makes this incredibly easy to whip together, but if you can’t find meringues in the store or want to try making them yourself, then this is the perfect recipe to have as a back-up plan. Because you crush the meringues anyway, it doesn’t matter one bit if they look pretty beforehand.
Because you need to let the meringues dry out in the cold oven (overnight if possible), it’s ideal to make them the day before you want to make the Eton mess. The meringue recipe will make more than you need for 4 servings of Eton mess, but they’ll keep in an airtight container for a week.
I doubt my boozy version would meet with approval at Eton College, but I think it will meet with yours. - Kristin —Kristin
Test Kitchen Notes
Eton Mess is not a very pretty dessert, but it sure is tasty. The airy textures of soft whipped cream and crunchy meringues together are terrific. The streaks of strawberry puree running through are beautiful and tasty. A hint of Cointreau is subtle, but enough to give it an adult twist. - Stephanie —The Editors
for the meringues:
cream of tartar
for the Eton mess:
fresh strawberries, hulled
orange liqueur, such as Cointreau or Grand Marnier
To make the meringues, preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. If you want to be exact and neat, trace 2 1/2-inch circles onto the parchment paper with a pencil to use as a guide, then flip the paper over so you don’t get pencil marks on the meringues.
Place the egg whites in a spotlessly clean bowl. Whisk on a medium speed until foamy, then add the cream of tartar. Continue to whisk until soft peaks form. Add the sugar a little at a time and continue whisking until all the sugar has been incorporated and the egg whites are very stiff and shiny.
Using two spoons (or a piping bag if you want the practice), place rounded spoonfuls of the egg white mixture in rows on the lined baking tray. You want them to be around 2 1/2 inches in diameter.
Place in the oven, then immediately reduce the oven temperature to 275 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for 1 hour. Turn the oven off and leave the meringues undisturbed in the oven until the oven is completely cold, or better yet, overnight, to allow them to dry out.
Cut the strawberries into halves or quarters, depending on their size (you want them to be bite sized). Place about one-third of the berries and the confectioners' sugar in a food processor or blender and process until just pureed (or you can mash them with a potato masher or fork). Place the remaining strawberries in a bowl and pour over the orange liqueur. Set aside to macerate while you whip the cream (the longer you can leave them steeping in the liqueur, the better).
Whip the cream just until soft peaks form. Break up the meringues into bite-sized pieces and add them to the whipped cream. Add the chopped strawberries, reserving a few for decoration. Gently fold in all but a few tablespoons of the puree, marbling it throughout the cream mixture. Spoon into individual serving dishes and drizzle with the remaining puree and reserved strawberries. Serve immediately.