Eton Mess – that classic English combo of meringue, cream and strawberries – is synonymous with summer. So, naturally, I thought what a great way to bring a touch of summer into our winter time.
Actually, the idea to have Eton Mess was a bit of an after thought really. I’d been inspired by a recipe from Donna Hay for some absolutely divine looking salted caramel meringues, though I didn’t actually use her recipe in the end. Rather, I paired her idea with the Swiss meringue ingredients and method from Joy of Baking’s Chocolate Meringue recipe which I’d made years ago. Eager to try it out, I threw caution to the wind and gave them a go on a very rainy day with high humidity. Duh. The result… deflated soft meringues. So much for displaying them in all their naked glory for the world to see.
But, rather than waste them, I figured I could still use them in a dessert and Eton Mess sprang to mind. So, I left the baked meringues in the closed oven for several hours which helped them dry out a bit, though they remained a little soft and chewy (and who, frankly, doesn’t prefer their meringues chewy anyway!). With strawberries out of the question (the only ones available in mid-Winter being tart and very expensive), I opted for some canned boysenberries in syrup which I reckoned would pair beautifully with the salted caramel flavourings.
So voila! A slightly non-traditional Eton Mess was born. And, may I say, yummo! I really loved the contrast between the tart, syrupy boysenberries and the ultra sweet meringue. And, that hit of salt was a gorgeous surprise, rounding out the flavours perfectly.
Who says you can’t enjoy a summer dessert in the winter?
- 3 egg whites (approx. 100g)
- 1 cup (220g) caster (superfine) sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 6 teaspoons dulce de leche (or thick caramel sauce)
- Sprinkling of Maldon salt flakes
- 300ml heavy cream
- 425g can of boysenberries in syrup*
- Optional: Swirl of caramel sauce on top
- Preheat oven to 130⁰C (265⁰F) and place the oven rack in the low/center of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Put the egg whites and sugar in a heat proof bowl and whisk to combine. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and, stirring constantly, heat the mixture until the sugar has melted (about 3-5 minutes). Test a little mixture between your fingers – if there are no more gritty sugar granules, it’s done. Remove from heat and wipe the bottom of the bowl to remove any condensation.
- Transfer the egg white mixture to the bowl of your electric mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on high speed (start on low and gradually increase to high) until the meringue is stiff with glossy peaks (about 5 minutes). When it’s done the bowl should be cool to the touch.
- Add the vanilla extract and beat to combine.
- Before placing the meringues on the baking sheet, place a little of the meringue on the underside of each corner of the parchment paper – this will prevent the paper from sliding.
- With two spoons, place 6 mounds of the meringue on your prepared baking sheet. Top each with 1 teaspoon dulce de leche then, using a palette knife or skewer, swirl the caramel though the meringue mixture. Sprinkle over with a little salt before putting into the preheated oven.
- As soon as you put the meringues into the oven, reduce the oven temperature to 100⁰C (210⁰F) and bake the meringues for approximately 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours, or until the meringues have a crisp outside crust and release easily from the parchment paper.
- Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. The meringues can be covered and stored at room temperature for 2-3 days (depending on humidity).
- Whip the cream to soft peaks (it's important not to over-whip - you want it to just hold its shape).
- Drain the boysenberries, but allow the boysenberries to remain syrupy.
- Take six serving glasses and layer alternate layers of cream, boysenberries and broken meringues.
- If you like, you can drizzle some caramel sauce over top.
Food Photography Info: Canon 550D (EOS Rebel T2i); Sigma 30mm 1.4 DC ‘Art’ lens / Natural lighting