This Eton Mess with Strawberry, Mandarin Orange and Lemon is the dessert for spring! Crunchy meringue cookies, fresh strawberries, sweet whipped cream, and little tangy mandarin-orange lemon curd.
What is “Eton Mess”? It’s a British dessert that is likely originated from Eton College. It’s a mix of cream and fruit. Meringue cookies was later added. “Mess” is probably the description of the dish. It’s a plate of things mixed together. No matter how it looks, it sounds like a perfect bowl of comforting dessert.
My version includes the Mandarin Orange-Lemon Curd that I made last week. That added little tanginess and sweetness. It works really well. If you don’t have time to make your own curd, you can get store-bought lemon curd. That will work for this recipe too. Traditional Eton Mess uses bigger meringue cookies that you break apart when serving. I made the meringue into little kisses instead. Not only they look cute, they make perfect bite-sized snacks too!
Typically, cream of tartar is added to the egg whites when making meringue. Cream of tartar is a powdery acid. It helps to stabilize meringue when whipping up. However, I realized that I didn’t have cream of tartar in my pantry (never restock after moving) when I was about to make this recipe. Then all the sudden, I remembered something I watched on TV saying that you can use lemon instead. I did a quick googling. BOOM! YES, I can! All I need to do is rub a cut lemon (flesh side down) on the inside of a mixing bowl and the outside of a whisk. Then, whip the egg whites with those equipment. The acid from the lemon will work like cream of tartar and stabilize the egg whites. That trick saved me a trip to supermarket!
Making meringue is not hard, but there’re a few things that will help you to reach a perfect result every time. 1) Make sure no egg yolk gets into the egg whites. It can make it difficult to whip up. 2) You need a clean mixing bowl with no grease, water or soap residue. Any of those will prevent your meringue to get to stiff peaks. 3) Egg whites need to get to room temperature for an airier meringue. 4) When whipping egg whites, slowly add the sugar little by little. If adding too quickly, the sugar can knock out the air bubbles in the egg white foam. 5) Baking time can be different depends on the size of the meringue and how humid your kitchen is. It took me 70 minutes to bake the first time, but 120 minutes the second time. When is it ready? When you can peel off the cookies easily off the parchment paper, they’re ready. Turn off the oven, leave a crack at the oven door and let them cool completely inside. That’s it! Not too bad, right?
For my meringue cookies, I don’t want the cookies to look light beige, which is how they normally look after baking. So I added a tiny bit of pink food coloring gel. They looked very light in pink at the end, which was a little on the light side. I could definitely add a bit more next time. If you don’t want to use food coloring, just skip it.
Now, the meringue cookies are done. There’re two more quick things to prepare. Macerate the strawberries. Toss the cut strawberries with sugar. You don’t need too much sugar, because the curd and the cookies are sweet already. Then, whip some heavy cream with a little more sugar until thicken. Get 2 serving bowls, dollop a little of whipped cream and curd. Add some cookies and strawberries. Repeat for a few times until you have used up the cream.
Sweet, crunchy, creamy & fresh. It’s a bowl of beautiful mess! This is an excellent spring time dessert you don’t want to miss! And remember that you can make most components ahead of time, so you just need to macerate the strawberries and whip the cream at last minute. Great for any get together! Hope you like this!
Happy Spring! Bye for now, let me get back to snack on my leftover meringue cookies. 😁
Strawberry, Mandarin Orange and Lemon Eton Mess
- 1 cup fresh strawberries (rinsed, pat dried, hulled & diced)
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/3 cup Mandarin Orange-Lemon curd (or store-bought lemon curd)
- 1 small lemon (rinsed and pat dried)
- 2 large egg white (at room temperature)
- ¼ teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- ½ cup sugar (99 grams)
- Food coloring (optional)
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- First, start with meringue cookies. Preheat the oven to 215˚F (100˚C). Arrange racks in lower and upper thirds of the oven. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment papers.
- Make sure a large mixing bowl (the one that goes with an electric mixer) is clean and dry. Cut a lemon in half. Rub the lemon (flesh side down) all the over the inside of the mixing bowl and the outside of the whisk attachment. A tiny bit of juice and pulp leftover is ok, but wipe off most pulps using the edge of the cut lemon.
- Now, add the egg whites into the mixing bowl. Fit the mixing bowl to the electric mixer. Start with medium-low speed. Add vanilla extract and salt.
- When the whites start to foam, increase to medium speed. Add sugar a little bit at a time. Once the whites begin to hold its shape. Increase to medium-high speed until firm peaks formed (not stiff yet). The tip of the peak will fold back at this point. Turn off the mixer. Add a drop or two of your choice of food coloring into the meringue if using.
- Turn the mixer back on to medium-high. Whisk until stiff peaks formed. The meringue should be smooth and glossy. Scoop up a small dollop of meringue with your finger and rub between your fingertips. If it’s smooth, the sugar has completely dissolved. If not, run the mixer on medium for just a little longer. Do not overwhip.
- Transfer half the meringue into a pipping bag fitted with a pipping tip. To secure the parchment paper, squeeze a small dot of meringue between the parchment paper and baking sheet at all four corners. Press down the parchment down after. Pipe about 60 (½-inch) meringue cookies onto each parchment paper, by leaving about ½-inch spacing in between.
- Bake in the oven for 1 – 2 hours until crisp on the outside and the inside is still a little chewy, rotating the baking sheets top to bottom and front to back half way through. When done, the meringues can be easily peel off the parchment paper. The baking time all depends on the size of the cookies and the humidity level. Turn off the oven and leave a crack at the door. Let the cookies cool completely in the oven, about 1 hour. The finished cookies should be crunchy and airy all the way.
- For the strawberries, put them in a small bowl and toss together with 1 teaspoon sugar. Set aside to macerate for about 10 minutes.
- For the whipped cream, combine heavy cream, 1 tablespoon sugar and ½ teaspoon vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Whip until thick but still soft.
- To assemble, in 2 serving glasses or bowls, layer with whipped cream, curd, meringue cookies (about 15 – 18 cookies each serving), and strawberries. Serve immediately.
- Make sure the egg whites have no yolk in it. It takes about 30 minutes for the egg whites to get to room temperature.
- Any grease, soap residue or water could ruin the meringue cookies.
- Lemon juice is used in this recipe instead of cream of tartar. But if you prefer cream of tartar, use 1/8 teaspoon and add along with the vanilla.
- I used pink food coloring gel, like this one. I scooped tiny amount of gel with a toothpick and wipe on the side of the whisk. I didn’t want the cookies to look too bright, but just with a very light pink. It’s up to you how you want them. Just keep in mind a little goes a long way.
- The pipping tip I used was an open star #22 tip. Use any small tip you like.
- This meringue recipe makes about 120 (½-inch) cookies. Leftover cookies can be stored in an airtight container for at least a week.