"Everyday Dorie: The Way I Cook"
“To set the record straight from the start: this is not a traditional Eton Mess. The dish, served on June Fourth at the British school Eton, is, by custom, composed of meringue, whipped cream, and strawberries, usually saucy, like a compote. My reading of the classic has these elements and then some. I’ve fiddled with the meringue, adding even more crunch to it—I fold in chunkily crushed store-bought Biscoff (speculoos/spice) cookies or toasted nuts. And I’ve added a new element: a rhubarb compote mixed with fresh strawberries and spiked with lime juice and an optional splash of crème de cassis. Of course there’s whipped cream. It’s a dessert with many good textures and flavors and, because of the variety, so many surprises: every spoonful offers delights, but no spoonful is the same as any other. If you’re not expert at making meringue, this is the dessert for you: You just spread it out on the baking sheet—no piping or fussing—and then, when you’re ready to use it, you crumble it, so that you get what is essential in meringue—sweetness and crunch.”—JBF Award winner Dorie Greenspan
- 1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar, divided
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 2 large room temperature egg whites
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar or 1/2 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
- Pinch of fine sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons Biscoff crumbs or chopped toasted nuts
- 1/2 pound rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
- 1⁄3 cup sugar
- 5 to 8 hulled and halved strawberries
- 1 teaspoon crème de cassis (optional)
- 1/2 lime
- 1 quart hulled and halved strawberries
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 1/2 cups lightly whipped heavy cream
Make the meringue: center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 250°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
Push 2 teaspoons sugar and the cornstarch through a fine-mesh sieve and set aside. Working in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the whites, cream of tartar or vinegar, and salt on medium-high speed until the whites form soft peaks, about 3 minutes. Add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. It will take about 5 minutes to get all the sugar into the whites, but it will be worth your patience. After all the sugar is incorporated, add the vanilla and beat for another 2 minutes or so. You’ll have stiff, glossy, beautifully white peaks. Switch to a flexible spatula and fold in the reserved sugar-and-cornstarch mix, followed by the cookie crumbs or nuts.
Use the spatula to scoop the meringue out onto the baking sheet and spread it about 1/2 inch thick. Size and shape don’t matter here. Bake the meringue, undisturbed, for 1 hour and 15 minutes. It will puff and it may crack, but it shouldn’t color much (it might be pale beige here and there, and that’s fine). Turn off the heat and prop the oven door open just a crack, to let the hot air out (use the handle of a wooden spoon if necessary), and leave the meringue to finish drying for another 2 hours, or for as long as overnight. It’s ready when you can easily peel away the paper or mat. Set aside until needed.
Make the compote: stir the rhubarb and sugar together in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Place the pan over medium heat and cook the fruit, stirring regularly, until it softens—it might fray around the edges or lose its shape, but that’s fine; the mixture should thicken like applesauce. Toss in the strawberries and cook for another 2 minutes. Take off the heat and stir in the crème de cassis, if you’re using it, and a squirt or two of lime juice. Hold on to the lime—you might want to add more juice later. Scrape the compote into a jar or bowl, cover by pressing a piece of plastic wrap against the surface and cool to room temperature.
Assemble the dessert: a few minutes before you’re ready to put the dessert together, mix the strawberries and sugar together in a bowl and let them stand until there’s a little juice in the bowl. I make the Mess in dessert coupes, but any bowl, jar, or parfait glass will do. For each serving, start with a couple of spoonfuls of the compote. Then, add a few spoonfuls of the lightly whipped cream and top with some berries and a little more whipped cream. Crumble the meringue generously over the dessert. You will probably have compote and meringue left over, and that’s a good thing.
Note: This dessert can go high or low: You can layer it prettily in dessert coupes or parfait glasses and serve it at your fanciest dinner or you can pile it up in a bowl and serve it with a big spoon. The ingredients are inherently beautiful, so the Mess will look great no matter how you combine them.
ETON MESS is excerpted from Everyday Dorie © 2018 by Dorie Greenspan. Photography © 2018 by Ellen Silverman. Reproduced by permission of Rux Martin Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.