Wednesday, November 17, 2010

In honour of the royal engagement: Eton Mess



Today I decided to make Eton Mess in honour of His Royal Highness Prince William's engagement to Catherine Middleton. Finally. Plus I just really wanted to eat whipped cream.


Prince William + Princess Diana's ring + Kate Middleton = wedding.

Meringue + strawberries + whipped cream = Eton Mess.

I know which one I'd rather eat.

Prince William studied at Eton, a very prestigious British independent school which has been described as the most famous public school in the world. It must be, because it comes up a lot in crosswords, as if one is just meant to know these things. Hell, any school that in this day and age that still makes their students wear a black tailcoat, waistcoat and pinstripe trousers deserves that kind of recognition. 

Anyhoo.

Eton is where this sinful creation of crispy, chewy meringue and sweet cream comes from. And I for one am grateful.

Now if you're in a hurry, you buy some meringue nests, whipped cream and strawberries and away you go. But if you want a five-star, upper-upper-class royal British taste sensation, then you make your own meringue. Trust me, it's not hard.

This is why you want to make your own meringue: 


Ooh marvel at the gooey marshmallowy goodness inside! 

You just don't get that out of a shelf-stable box of meringues. No siree Bob, gosh, crumbs, pip pip cheerio and and all that.

Home-made meringue is crispy on the outside, light and fluffy on the inside, and has just the right amount of chewiness. When you bite into it, nothing cracks and then shatters into tasteless chalk dust in your mouth. No siree, etc. etc.

So. Onward. Upward. Tally-ho. Forward to the meringue-making.


Ingredients: 
6 egg whites
1 1/2 cup caster sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cornflour/cornstarch
1 teaspoon white vinegar (or lemon juice)

Method: 

Preheat your oven to 125C. Yes, very low.

1. If you haven't already separated your eggs, be careful when doing so. The tiniest bit of yolk may ruin your chances of the whites properly whipping. They say have your beaters and bowl chilled before starting, but I've been making this since I was 12 years old and I've never had a problem.

2. Whip the eggs to soft peak stage, thus: 


3. Beat in the sugar, a little at a time, ensuring the first batch is properly distributed and hopefully dissolved before adding the next.

4. When all whipped, semi-firm and glossy, add the cornflour and vinegar. Whip to combine. 


5. Spread out fairly thickly on a tray covered in baking paper. As you'll be wanting some crispness, make a few peaks.

6. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes until lightly brown. Turn the oven off and leave the door ajar while the meringue cools.

7. What you should have would look a little something like this:


8. Break it up into a large bowl. If you can resist eating bits as you do, you're a better man than I. Mix with 1 cup cream whipped with 1 teaspoon sugar and a dash of vanilla, add strawberries, and get eton eatin'.

Looking for a way to use up all those leftover egg yolks? Try my custard tart.

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