A Taste of Summer in Late Winter
Technically, it’s still winter, but more and more are the days starting to feel spring-like. This is the time of year I lose my winter penchant for hot drinks and hardy desserts and start to crave something lighter, like the fresh cherries I put up late last summer. It’s the perfect time to whip up a Cherry Eton Mess, a delicious, light, airy dessert reminiscent of the taste of summer. Cherry Mess is made by creating alternating layers of cherry compote, freshly whipped cream mixed with chunks of homemade meringue, and toasted sliced almonds. Prepare to swoon: one spoon of this beautiful mess is transcendent.
A simple, easy do-ahead dessert, Cherry Mess is perfect for entertaining. It is visually stunning and delicious but it is a snap to put together—simply prepare all the components ahead of time and assemble just before serving.
Cherry Eton Mess Recipe:
(Adapted from David Lebovitz)
- 2 cups cherry compote. (See my previous post, Put a Bit of Summer Away for Winter: Cherry Compote for recipe and instructions.)
- 2 large egg whites, at room temperature
- Pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup (100g) sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 4 teaspoons Amaretto liqueur, or to taste
Toasted Sliced Almonds
- 1 cup toasted sliced almonds
See my previous post, Put a Bit of Summer Away for Winter: Cherry Compote for recipe and detailed instructions.
1. Preheat oven to 225ºF (110ºC).
2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
3. In a clean, dry bowl, beat egg whites on medium-high speed with a pinch of salt until the egg whites have soft folds. Add the sugar one tablespoon at a time as you continue to beat the egg whites making sure sugar is incorporating well before adding the next tablespoon of sugar. Keep doing this until all the sugar is incorporated. The meringue should look stiff and shiny. Beat in the almond extract.
4. Spoon the meringue into 6 or 8 mounds onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. You can flatten each mound using the back of a spoon. don’t worry about the shape as the meringue gets crumbled into the whipped cream. If the meringue stick your spoon as you try to flatten the mounds, simply dip it in water and shake off the excess. This helps to keep the meringue from sticking.
5. Bake the meringues for 1 1/2 hours, then turn off the oven and let the meringues remain in the oven with the door closed to dry slowly until they are completely cooled. I like to make my meringues the night before I need them and leave them in the oven overnight to completely cool. I have always had complete success using this method.
Whipped Cream Mixture:
Whip the cream using a whisk, stand mixer or hand mixer in a chilled bowl until it holds its shape. Then whip in the sugar and the Amaretto liqueur until the whipped cream is thick, but not too stiff. Be careful not to over-whip.
Toasted Sliced Almonds:
Preheat oven to 350ºF (175ºC).
Spread sliced almonds evenly in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 or more minutes or until they are a light golden brown. Stir at the 5 minute mark. Set a timer! Sliced almonds can burn quickly.
Assembling Your Cherry Mess:
1. Just before serving, spoon some cherry compote making sure to get some of the syrup from the compote into the bottom of four wine glasses or other tall glass vessels. I like to cut the cherries in half, but some people like them whole. (As a variation, I also like to add a handful of fresh blueberries over the compote when they are in season.)
2. Roughly break up 2 or more of the meringues into about 1-inch (3cm) pieces and fold them into the whipped cream—the cream should be well peppered with meringue pieces.
3. Next, spoon some of the whipped cream and meringue mixture over the cherries in the glasses. Then add a sprinkle of the toasted sliced almonds over the whipped cream.
4. Continue to layer each glass with more cherries (and blueberries if using them), more of the whipped cream and meringue mixture, and more toasted sliced almonds. I like to end it with a few cherries and syrup on top and a sprinkle of toasted sliced almonds. Serve immediately.
Note: This dessert must be assembled just before serving. Do not assemble ahead of time as the meringue will begin to dissolve in the whipped cream and get mushy if left in the whipped cream too long.
One of my favourite variations of this dessert is to add a layer of fresh blueberries right after the cherry compote layer. The unique flavour combination of the cherry compote with the blueberries takes this dessert over the top for me.
All photographs by madlyinlovewithlife; © 2014 madlyinlovewithlife