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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.

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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.

i do like a sugar cone

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.

INGREDIENTS

  • 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

METHOD

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. 

Notes: 

  • 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.

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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.

Posted
Authortara
Categoriesdessert, summer
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People are already starting to talk about summer in the past tense. And it makes me want to weep.

I am evidently the vulnerable sort. Or just a trifle prone to the dramatic. Either way, its making me a bit emotional. We're only just barely two weeks into the month of July, and I've heard the hushed mention of back-to-school. Really?

A few days ago I was innocently flicking through a clothing catalogue and noticed sleeves were getting longer than those shown a month before. And while I might have gazed longingly at a particularly-tweedy ensemble for a nanosecond, I rallied myself against that affection. Surely the season cannot be over already, before it has even really begun?

We've only had one carnival, the tomatoes are still green and I have not had nearly enough time in the pool. And the other night, there were fireflies. There is still so much of summer left.

I hope that there are days to come with time for walks on warm evenings, the sort that lead you to meander through neighborhoods until the last of the light. For strong coffee in the quiet of the early morning, when the air is already thick with heat. And opportunity to savour sunwarmed peaches, and raspberries picked by eager hands, brought home in baskets stained purple with juice.

And picnics. Days and days for picnics, please and thank you. Did I tell you? We've become the sort to picnic. Picnic folk, if you will. Give me a tree, a patch of grass, even a rock and a box of takeout, I am blissful to sit and while away a minute or an hour or an afternoon. I will find each and every possible excuse to pack up our boys, pack up some nibbles, and make our way to the great outdoors - even if that just means the backyard.

I consider this cake, this raspberry-rippled marvel you see before you, to be my sticking point, my line drawn in the sand against all of those eager to write off the season and look forward to fall.

A buttery base is drowned in an ocean of blue-black raspberries, dolloped with more batter, then covered in a nut-flecked crumble. It is a cake full of berries and peaches and it is ideal for a picnic. Pretty as it is, it is a sturdy sort of beauty. It is a cake as easily eaten out of hand as it is with a knife and fork, and truth be told, I prefer the former method. It makes for effortless picnic-ery.

No siree Summer, I'm not letting go of you yet.

Raspberry Peach Crumb Cake

Adapted from a Better Homes and Gardens recipe, via Inn Cuisine. It is a fine dessert, a grand snack, and I'm sure nobody would sneer if it was offered alongside that aforementioned early-hour coffee.My wonderful (and super cool) nephews, ages 5 and 10, were kind enough to pick these for us - bringing in not one, but two generous harvests. Thanks to you both for your enthusiasm and stained knees.

Ingredients

6 ounces raspberries, fresh or frozen, I used fresh wild black ones

2 medium peaches, peeled and sliced into chunks

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup butter, cold and diced

1/3 cup sliced (flaked) almonds

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon salt

coarse sugar for dusting

Preheat an oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter and flour a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, or a 10-inch springform pan.

In a medium saucepan, toss the raspberries and peaches with the cornstarch to coat. Stir in the sugar and cook over medium heat until bubbling and thick. Remove from the heat and mash the berries and peaches slightly. Take approximately 1/3 of the mashed fruit and transfer to a medium bowl. Set a sieve over the same bowl, and a little at a time, push the remaining fruit through the mesh to remove any seeds and large pulp. Remove the sieve, discard the seeds and pulp, then stir the purée to combine with the reserved fruit. Set aside to cool slightly.

For the cake, in a medium bowl stir together the sour cream, milk, egg and vanilla. Set aside.

Combine the flour and sugar in a large bowl. Using fingers, two knives or a pastry cutter, cut the cold butter into the flour mixture until you have a texture that resembles coarse meal. Remove 1/2 cup of the crumb mixture to a small bowl and stir through the almonds. Set aside.

To the remaining flour mixture, whisk in the baking powder, baking soda and salt. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the liquids. Using light, quick strokes, stir until only just combined. The batter should be thick, but smooth.

Take about 2/3 of the batter and spread it across the bottom and up 1-inch of the sides of the prepared pan. Damp fingers or a wet palette knife make easy work of this. Spoon the reserved raspberry filling over the batter, gently spreading to cover and leaving a 1/2-inch border at the edge. Dollop irregular mounds of the remaining dough over the fruit layer, again using damp fingers or a wet palette knife to coax the batter to almost cover - some gaps are good. Top with the crumb topping over all and then sprinkle with a couple of teaspoons or so of coarse sugar.

Place on a sheet pan and bake in a preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the centre comes out clean and the cake starts to pull away from the sides of the pan. Cool, in pan on a rack, for 15 minutes. Remove from the tart pan and serve at warm or at room temperature.

Makes one 10-inch cake.

Notes:

• Although I have not tried it, I am certain another berry or fruit could be substituted in the filling. The original recipe asked for all raspberries, with all the pulp and seeds removed. I am one who believes that sometimes a bit of seeds is a good thing, somehow making the berries taste all the more like themselves, and so I kept some seeds for texture. By all means though, follow what is your preference.