Eton Mess is a traditional English dessert, typically a mixture of strawberries or bananas, pieces of meringue, and cream. It was traditionally served at Eton College’s annual cricket match, played against the students of Harrow School. The word mess likely refers to the appearance of the dish, or perhaps it’s a ‘mess’ because it is a dish my mixing together ingredients with no regard for presentation. Messy or not, this is a perfect dessert to make for the U.S. Memorial Day holiday-red, white, and blue – and easy.
At it’s simplest, Eaton Mess is a pudding made by combining chunks of baked meringue with cream and fruit and one dessert that vegans like myself couldn’t eat – until now. This is, of course, thanks to aquafaba, the miraculous bean water that makes a gorgeous egg-free meringue. Not only delicious, this vegan meringue is very stable, easy to make– you can’t overbeat this meringue, but you do want to follow the rules in the recipe. Nope, there is no taste of the bean!
According to the author of Recipes from the Dairy who spoke to Eton College’s librarian, Eton mess was served in the 1930s in the school’s tuck shop, and was originally made with either strawberries or bananas mixed with ice cream or cream. The meringue was a later addition, and may have been an innovation by Michael Smith, the author of Fine English Cookery. Whatever is factual, this is a great spring and summer rather-instant dessert.
An Eton Mess can be made with many other types of summer fruit, but strawberries are considered the most traditional. A similar dessert is the Lancing Mess, which uses bananas, and is served throughout the year at Lancing College in West Sussex.
I’ve been eating a lot of chickpeas and white beans, more than usual lately, as I re-tested some different ways to make the most stable and easiest aquafaba meringue. Meringue can be made using a hand mixer but having a stand mixer, like my reliable and beautiful Kitchen Aid, makes for a faster process. I wrote in my Vegan Meringue Cookies blog post last year that I no longer reduce the bean water, and that I add the almost powdered vegan organic cane sugar slowly to the meringue-cream of tartar mixture after just a few minutes of beating. Today I am going to revise those views. I do reduce the bean water, but not everyone does.
The previous methods are not wrong and will give you a good meringue, but for one that is sturdier, and still firm after 24 hours in the refrigerator, follow along here.
Follow the recipe for meringue in last year’s blog post but note these differences:
The Bean Liquid
I reduce the typical 3/4 cup of chickpea water from a can to 1/2 cup. Simply pour the chickpea water into a saucepan and reduce over medium heat about 10 minutes, or until it reduces to 1/2 cup. Chill before using.
Today I reduced the almost powdered sugar from 6 ounces to 4 ounces and it was enough. You decide if 4 ounces is sweet enough for you, but for whichever amount you choose to use, grind cane sugar until almost powdered in a spice grinder or high-speed blender. I did not sweeten the fruit as the creams are sweet enough.
The Eaton Mess Unrecipe:
- You’ll need:
- A dish or bowl
- Chunks of baked meringue, big pieces as well as smaller ones, too.
- Vanilla Custard Cream
To Make the Eton Mess
- Fold pastry cream, to taste into the aquafaba. Don’t mix thoroughly, it is ok to see the swirly differences.
- Spoon cream into a serving bowl.
- Add chunks of meringue.
- Add fruit, lots of it.
- Serve immediately or hold for a few hours. The meringue will soften into the cream and get chewy, like a marshmallow fluff.
You can also the components plated with a nod to Pavlova.
- Spoon a round of cream on a plate.
- Top with a baked meringue.
- Spoon some fork-mashed raspberries over the meringue.
- Dollop on as much cream as you’d like and load this deliciousness up with fruit.