As soon as strawberries come into season in the UK, I’m ALL OVER THEM. It’s usually starting to get warm outside (although as I’m writing this my view is of a very grey sky), so a strawberry-heavy dessert like Eton mess is my idea of heaven.
I have such strong memories of having it at primary school, served unglamorously in plastic cups, when we would have our annual ‘sports day’. It was effectively the last day of school so even though there was sports involved (gross), the fact that it was almost summer holidays made the day filled with so much excitement.
Now, Eton mess isn’t the most beautiful dessert ever – strawberries, raspberries and crushed meringues folded into whipped cream will never look stunning. It was apparently borne out of someone dropping a meringue on the floor, it shattering, and them deciding to serve it anyway so you get the idea. But if you take those flavours and add them to a different dessert you can get a beautiful result. There are so many variations on Eton mess you could make by taking those basic flavours to make something else delicious.
Here I made an Eton mess tart, using an enriched pastry which I rolled out ‘galette style’ so you don’t need a fluted tart tin to make it. The pastry is baked alone so it gets crisp and flaky. It’s then topped with whipped cream, berries and blobs of meringue ‘frosting’ which are torched.
The enriched pastry uses up the egg yolks that would be leftover from making the meringue so you don’t have random yolks sitting around in the fridge. But why even add eggs to pastry? The yolks help bind it together and, because of the fat content, keep it tender by preventing some gluten formation in the dough. You also get that slight yellow tinge to the pastry which can make it look even more appealing.
If you’re more up for a standard Eton mess recipe, I also did one for Food52 a while ago which you can check out here. Otherwise, I hope you enjoy this tart recipe!
- 240g (2 cups) plain white flour (all-purpose flour)
- 90g (3/4 cup) wholemeal (whole wheat) pastry flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 200g (7 ounces) unsalted butter, cold, cubed
- 2 egg yolks (save the whites)
- 100-125ml (6-8 tablespoons) cold water
- 2 egg whites
- 100g (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
- 150ml (2/3 cup) double cream (heavy cream)
- 125ml (1/2 cup) plain yogurt
- 2 tbsp icing sugar (powdered sugar)
- 200g (7 ounces) strawberries
- 100g (3.5 ounces) raspberries
Make the pastry:
- Place both the flours and salt into a large bowl. Add the cold butter and toss to coat the cubes in flour. Use your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour until you have a mostly sandy/breadcrumb texture with some pea-sized lumps of butter remaining. (You can also do this by pulsing the same ingredients in a food processor)
- Add the egg yolks and about half of the water. Start to bring it together with your fingertips, gently kneading. Drizzle in more water as needed, a tablespoon at a time, until the dough starts to stick together and feels slightly moist but not sticky.
- Smush the dough together into one big ball with your hands then flatten it into a disk shape. Place in a resealable sandwich bag and chill for 1 hour so it can rest.
Shape and bake:
- Let the chilled dough warm at room temp. for a few minutes so it softens slightly. Line a large baking tray with baking paper.
- Dust the pastry lightly with flour and roll it out into a circle about 35cm (14 inches) in diameter. It doesn't matter if it is slightly larger than the baking tray at this point. Roll up the pastry around the rolling pin, then unroll over the lined baking sheet.
- Roll and tuck the outer 5cm (2 inch) border of the circle under itself to neaten the edge and create a thicker crust, a bit like a pizza! NOTE: You may need to trim the edges of the pastry before rolling up to get it to fit onto the baking tray properly.
- Now crimp the edge of the pastry all the way around with your fingertips (see video above for how to do it) OR use the tines of a fork to make impressions all the way around the edge.
- Prick the centre of the pastry all over with a fork to prevent it bubbling up when it bakes.
- Chill the pastry for 10-15 minutes as your oven preheats to 190 C (170 C fan / 375 F).
- Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Keep an eye on it and use a metal spatula to press down any big air bubbles that may form as it bakes.
- Let the crust cool before filling.
- Combine the egg whites and sugar in a medium, heatproof bowl. Set over a pot of simmering water making sure the bottom of the bowl isn't touching the water.
- Stir constantly until the sugar has dissolved (the mixture shouldn’t feel gritty when you rub some between your fingertips) and registers 71 C (160 F ) on a thermometer.
- Remove the bowl from the pan and use electric beaters to whisk until cool, very fluffy and thickened - you should be able to lift up the beaters and form stiff peaks in the mixture which do not sink back into the meringue. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a wide plain tip (or you can dollop it with a spoon if you don't have piping bags).
- When you're ready to serve: Whip the double cream in a large bowl with a whisk until thickened. Fold in the yogurt and icing sugar.
- Prep the berries by removing any stalks and cutting up larger berries into slices.
- Spread the whipped yogurt cream over the pastry. Top with the berries. Pipe on (or spoon on) blobs of meringue all over. If you have a blowtorch you can use it to toast the meringue blobs but it's not necessary.
MAKE IT EASIER:
- you can use ready made shortcrust pastry for this recipe if you'd like. You'll need about 350g (12 ounces) of pastry. You can go with plain or 'dessert' shortcrust..
- If you don't want to make the meringue yourself you can buy the meringues from the shops, usually in the baking aisle. Just crumble them up and scatter over the tart.
- Alternatively, could buy marshmallow fluff and pipe dollops of that all over the tart and torch it, instead of making meringue.
This Eton mess tart is best assembled just before eating as the crust can go soggy if it sits around with the toppings on it. You can pre-bake the crust, whip the cream, prep the berries & meringue. Then when you're ready to eat, just layer it up and serve!