Challenge No. 3 – Eton Mess

Before I get started with this recipe, I just want to say welcome to those who have kindly starting following this website!  🙂 I hope you enjoy reading about my adventures.

So onto the challenge.  Eton mess was suggested by my dad and it is a pudding my mum makes quite often in the summer.  It’s a great one for a dinner party and can be put together in many different ways.  With it being one of my mum’s specialities I felt I had a lot to live up to with this one.

The first hurdle, I’ve never made meringue before and it is something I have been scared of trying.  I’ve often saved the whites of an egg (when a recipe calls for just the yolk) with the intention of having a go but then I always backed out and threw the whites away.  Silly really, considering some of the things I have turned my hand to in the kitchen.

And so, here I was, faced with the prospect of having to make meringue.  I hunted online and found a recipe which I thought looked good.  This recipe is one by Marcus Waering and you can find the full details here, http://www.greatbritishchefs.com/recipes/eton-mess

It was the presentation of this dish that really caught my eye – it was so neat and pretty. Now, some of you may be reading this thinking an eton mess is supposed to be messy?! I hear you, but I thought the idea of the mess being inside a neat dome was a great one.  It would look beautiful to serve but once you break the dome and get tucked in, the true ‘mess’ of the eton mess would be revealed.

This recipe uses the following ingredients:-

  • 80g of egg white
  • 80g of caster sugar
  • 80g of icing sugar
  • 2 punnet of raspberries
  • 200ml of cream, lightly whipped
  • 2 tbsp of raspberry jam
  • 25ml of raspberry liqueur, optional

Ingredients Edited

I decided to halve this recipe as there was only me and my boyfriend to eat it.  I also left out the raspberry liqueur as this isn’t something I had in and it seemed a bit extravagant to buy a bottle just for 12.5 ml.  Oh and I also opted to use strawberries instead of raspberries, simply because I prefer them and I used my homemade strawberry jam (click here to find out how to make your own strawberry jam).

Practical tip: I found that one medium egg white was approximately 35-40g.

With my ingredients ready, I got out my bowl and in accordance with the recipe, carefully separated my yolks and white.  I then started whisking with my electric hand whisk.  I didn’t really know what I was looking for when the recipe said until “very stiff” and I just whisked until it looked about right.  I then added the sugars as per the recipe (caster first and then the icing sugar).  It was going well and then quite suddenly the mix collapsed! It was extremely runny and there was no way it could be piped into a dome.  So in the bin it went.

I spent a bit of time at my laptop trying to find out what went wrong.  With this I found a few useful tips:-

  • Make sure the bowl, whisk etc is thoroughly cleaned and dried before starting.
  • Use a glass bowl.  Avoid plastic as this can have an oil residue which affects the egg whites and stops you reaching the required stiffness;
  • Clean the bowl with some lemon juice as it helps remove any residue (I didn’t try this but it’s one to note for the future)
  • To test for stiff peaks you should be able to hold the bowl upside down above your head.
  • When adding your sugars, do it gradually.  For instance, add one tablespoon then whisk, another tablespoon then whisk and then add the remainder.

And so I started again, this time with my glass bowl.  Once the whites looked stiff, I started to tip the bowl to check the consistency and after a little more whisking I managed to tip it upside down without the mix falling out.  I’ll be honest, I wasn’t brave enough to do this over my head and stuck to doing it over the worktop!

I then gradually added the sugars, once again starting with the caster and then the icing.  Everything was looking rights until part way through adding the icing sugar. It collapsed AGAIN!  It wasn’t quite as runny as last time so I thought I would try piping my dome. 

Nope, that didn’t work.  It stayed within my defined circles but there was nothing ‘dome-like’ about it, definitely more of a pancake! I popped it in the oven and thought i’ll just see what its like for flavour. 

Practical tip: draw two (or more) circles on the parchment paper and then turn this upside down on your tray so you have a clear shape to pipe/fill with your mix.

Drawing circles

I made a quick phone call to my mum to try and figure our what went wrong – remember you’re never too old to ask your mum for help!  I explained step by step what I had done and we couldn’t figure it out.  Mum suggested that the icing sugar should have been folded in rather than whisked but the recipe specifically states to whisk it in.  We also discussed that perhaps I just over whisked the stiff peaks to start off with and this destroyed the structure of the mix.  But at the end of the call we couldn’t pin point the problem.  I considered having a third attempt but I needed to get the meringue cooked as I needed the oven to cook our dinner. And so I was left with pancake meringues.

Whilst the meringues where cooking I sieved my strawberries to make the puree and got the rest of my ingredients ready.  Although I waited to fold the strawberries into my cream until just before I was ready to put everything together. 

Ready to mix edited

Once my meringues were done, I took them out of the oven and I tried to remove some of the softer meringue from the bottom as the recipe told me to.  However, in hindsight this could probably have been left in to give a gooey texture to the eton mess.  One to try for next time (I will definitely be making this again as it was yummy!)

Edited pancakes

With everything ready to go, I decided to serve it up in wine glasses which has been chilled in the fridge. I started layering in my ingredients, some meringue first, then the cream mixture, a bit more meringue and then cream and finally topped with some carefully selected meringue to make it look pretty.  I used the puree to pour on top and drizzle down the sides where the gaps where.  Finally, I finished the presentation off by adding a strawberry to the rim of each glass.


Edited served ipEdited top served

So this didn’t turn out as I had hoped but it certainly tasted amazing and I think it still looks pretty good, even without the dome!  Although, when I gave it to my boyfriend, whilst he said it looked amazing, he did ask me to tip it into a bowl so he wouldn’t break the glass.  Just goes to show, try as you might, you just can’t (and perhaps shouldn’t) take the mess out of an eton mess!

Coming up next week, Challenge No. 4 – BBQ chicken wings. See you then 🙂

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