Eton Mess, at its simplest, is technically only one step up from strawberries and cream but what makes it somewhere around a million times better is the addition of crumbled meringues. Named after the famed boy's school in England, there are a variety of stories regarding the origin of the recipe but few that dispute its charms.
It is something that wandered into my consideration a while ago, a recipe I'd made before but had unaccountably fallen by the wayside.
There it was, back again, distracting me while I was folding laundry. Eton Mess. And then as I was supposed to be paying attention to a movie. Raspberry Eton Mess. And again in the midst writing a grocery list, what leaps onto the page but all the ingredients for Frozen Raspberry Eton Mess.
Eton Mess, Eton Mess, Eton Mess. It was my Tell-tale Heart, only delectable.
And yes, frozen. The impulse for ice had hit me the the day before, when we turned down a street outside of our normal route, seeking its shade from a particularly-hot afternoon.
It's a street I love, a long avenue - so long that it is difficult to see its end. When you stand at its top you feel that distance stretch in front of you like a current. That length, that space, that breath of air.
Ash trees line the street. Each has a partner directly opposite and they are old enough that their branches meet in the middle and intertwine, like pairs of hands clasped in that song I remember from when I was little. "Here's the church, here's the steeple ..."
It is perpetually cool and dim there this time of year, to all appearances existing in its own climate. And as you walk under that arched roof of branches, translucent green leaves above that cast a filigree shadow below, creating a grey and black damask upon the pavement. You feel as though you're down the emerald corridor on you way to meet the Wizard in Oz.
We were halfway down that road when it struck me, I wanted a dessert that tasted as blessedly chilled as that place felt. My Eton Mess would be a frozen one.
To end my preoccupation, I settled on pureéd raspberries and a generous pile of meringue, stirred into peaks of cream touched with the tart freshness of crème fraîche. Against the toothy sweetness of the meringues, whose soft middles are marshmallow-rich, that crème fraîche helps to keep everything sprightly and springy.
Although already peppy with fruit and coolly sour, I've included a few spoonfuls of lemon curd. It has a pure acidity that suits the chill of the fridge, and the nip of the freezer even better. Cold, its very lemoness seems to brighten even more if that's possible. It's like an exclamation mark to finish a phrase.
What we ended with was a dessert that had the qualities of pavlova but the citrus-twanged hit of a Creamsicle.
That said, this is not ice cream, but is iced cream. It will freeze quite solid but wait and it will, all of a sudden, turn soft and yielding, as lush and rich as a semifreddo. We scooped ours, and if you plan to follow suit I would recommend a large shallow dish (rather than the tall one I've pictured) to ensure even freezing and optimal scoopability. Or, for ease, you can freeze individual portions in ramekins to be turned out as molded desserts.
Either way, it's up to you. It suits a spoon but is immensely lickable. But if you opt for the latter, I'll give you one last piece of advice and whisper two words: Sugar Cones. Truly. If you're going to do it, go full on.
I've mentioned Oz, I've invoked Poe, I sang and told you about Eton Mess. My work here is done and my mind is free and clear.
I have a feeling though, it won't be for long, because there are blueberries about and peaches (peaches!) are in season.
Until next time.
Frozen Raspberry Eton Mess
This recipe from BBC Good Food was my jumping off point for the lemon curd, and I think it is what makes this dessert. I have added a concentrated sugar syrup (basically a pale caramel) to the cream in an attempt to keep it as luscious as possible when frozen.
2 tablespoons caster sugar
2 cups heavy (whipping) cream, divided
Seeds scraped from half a vanilla bean
A pinch of salt
1/3 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
1/4 cup raspberry purée, divided, see note
1/4 cup lemon curd, divided, see note
4 ounces meringues
In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan stir the sugar into 3 tablespoons of water until it is dissolved. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Leave to bubble, without stirring or agitation, until the sugar becomes thick and syrupy and the bubbles begin to slow. This will take around 6 minutes.
Meanwhile, warm 1/2 cup of the cream on the stove or in the microwave. Do not boil, just warm.
When the sugar syrup is ready (it may have a hint of colour and that's okay), carefully whisk the warm cream into the sugar. Keep stirring, bring back to a boil and cook until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat, scrape in the vanilla seeds and sprinkle in the salt. Stir again to combine. Set aside to cool.
Once cool, pour the sweetened cream into the remaining heavy cream and refrigerate until cold.
Strain the chilled cream through a fine-meshed sieve into a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat the cream into soft peaks. Fold in the crème fraîche.
Roughly crumble in the meringues. Drizzle almost all of the raspberry purée over top and fold for a rippled look. Spoon most of the lemon curd into the dessert, folding one last time until lightly marbled. Pour the dessert into a freezer-safe container. Use the remaining purée and curd to decorate the top.
Freeze until firm (the timing will depend on the specific dimensions of the container used).
Place the dessert into the refrigerator of 20 minutes, or at room temperature for 10 minutes, before serving. Spoon into bowls or scoop into cones and enjoy.
- For the raspberry purée, I make a small batch of this recipe, substituting the strawberries.
- When making the lemon curd I used one lime (and its zest) in with the lemons; it has a deeper, sharper sourness that I think is especially nice with raspberries. While we're on the subject, passion fruit curd would be heavenly.
Just in case you'd like to know, the latest issue of UPPERCASE Magazine is out! In it you'll find my recipe for Black Raspberry Milkshakes, the testing for which pretty much convinced our eldest that milkshakes should be considered an essential part of his everyday. A look at the shakes is here, and a glimpse between the covers is here.