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Summer Berry Eton Mess

La Petite Maison Verte: Summer Berry Eton Mess

Monday, July 16, 2012

Summer Berry Eton Mess

Things I love about summer time:


daylight until 9 pm

cut-off jeans and cowboy hats

mountains of sweet corn, zucchini, summer squash and basil

the freckles that pop up on my nose

summer camp (why isn't there a summer camp for adults? friendship bracelets are so in right now....)

citronella candles on the porch

road trips with the windows down

water-gun fights (you guys remember Super-Soakers, right?!)


flip-flops (and pedicures!)

frozen custard at the boardwalk


coconut-scented sunblock

the sound of crickets in the evening

the sound of the lawnmower on Saturday morning

dining al fresco and impromptu picnics

and berries, ripe berries of every kind.....

Of course it goes without saying, summer berries need no adornment to be delicious.  But when the occasion calls for a summer dessert besides a simple bowl of pure, unadulterated fruit, I frequently make the light and simple but elegant Eton Mess.

I forget when or how I first became aware of Eton Mess, perhaps I was looking for a gluten-free recipe to showcase summer's sweet bounty for my brother in law Rob, but all I know is it has been a favorite ever since.

Store-bought vanilla meringues are broken into pieces and layered with fresh, lightly whipped vanilla-scented cream and macerated berries.  I think strawberries are the traditional fruit used, but I don't see why blueberries, blackberries or raspberries couldn't stand in when they're at their peak.  And for that matter, I think sliced fresh peaches or plums would work beautifully too.

I don't typically measure anything or follow a specific recipe when I make this dessert.  It's so simple and you literally cannot mess it up (see what I did there?).  I based this recipe off of Nigella Lawson's because she is just, well, my favorite British foodie, but I've put my own American spin on things.

Eton Mess
adapted from Nigella Lawson
serves 4

4 cups sliced berries (I used a combination of sliced strawberries and blueberries)
4 teaspoons sugar, divided (feel free to substitute stevia, splenda or another sugar substitute if necessary)
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8-12 vanilla flavored meringue cookies or nests (or fewer, if yours are very large)
mint sprigs, optional, for garnish

Place your washed, hulled and sliced berries into a large bowl and toss with 2 teaspoons of the sugar. Allow to sit at room temperature for about 20-30 minutes, gently stirring once or twice, so the berries can release their juices.  (This step can be prepared ahead of time:  if preparing in advance, instead of leaving at room temperature mix the berries and sugar in the bowl, cover with saran wrap and refrigerate for 1-24 hours).

Just before serving, whip the heavy cream with the remaining 2 teaspoons of sugar and the 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract until soft peaks form.  Break up the meringues into large chunks and mix half of the pieces into the whipped cream.

In 4 serving glasses, layer the remaining broken pieces of meringue with the macerated berries and the whipped cream.  Garnish with fresh mint, if desired.  Serve immediately.

What are your favorite things about the summer time?  Summer has always been my favorite season, ever since I was a kid.  Even though I'm an adult and no longer have the freedom to enjoy the endless summer days of vacation, the happy memories always return as the days get longer and the evenings grow warmer.  


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