Monday, June 3, 2013

Eton mess with whipped mascarpone

Sometime around a year ago, when the world was in full Royal wedding hype mode, I heard, on one of the half dozen TV specials I willingly got sucked into, that Prince Williams favorite dessert is Eton mess.

Eton mess is named after the famous English college, Eton. The Legend is it was created when a beautiful dessert, destined for either a school picnic or the dinner hall (depends on who is telling the story) was accidentally smashed just prior to the meal. As there was not any time to begin making a new dessert, the mashed up concoction of meringue, cream and berries was served and was a big success.

And really it is nothing but a mashed up concoction of meringue, cream and berries. Traditionally, I believe the components are supposed to be mixed up or layered up together ahead of time but I enjoy setting out dishes of whipped cream, macerated berries and smashed meringue cookies and allowing guests to build their own. I always like an interactive dish that allows guests to tailor to their tastes.

This is also an excellent make ahead dessert. The berries can sit out, puddling up their juices in a bowl with lemon and sugar. The whipped cream can be made hours in advance and left to chill in the fridge. The meringue cookies, well, someday I am sure I will make my own, but until then Trader Joe's has a nice little tub of them and I do not believe the end dessert product suffers for it. I just stash a few into a large ziplock baggie and give a couple of pounds with my fist. (Also, I have noticed guests like to help out with this step too.

I have a deep abiding love for mascarpone (see here, and here) and a few months back stumbled into a recipe for whipping it up with heavy cream. It was one of those key culinary moments of pure delight- when the thing that you love actually can be made into something you love even more. More substantial in texture than whipped cream, I like to served whipped mascarpone when, for dessert, I am craving something with tangy sourness but do not have the time or motivation to make a full on cheesecake.

whipped mascarpone

8 oz. mascarpone
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

Add all ingredients to the bowl of a stand mixer. Start the mixture out on low to ensure the mascarpone is evenly incorporated into the heavy cream. Raise the mixer speed to high and whip until soft peaks form. (I stand eagle eyed at the mixture because this whips up very quickly and it is the merest of milliseconds between lovely whipped delight and just plain butter.)

While most whipped cream recipes call for the addition of sugar, I do not add it here. Especially with Eton mess, the sugar component comes in from the meringue cookies and the berries. But if serving alongside something less sweet (a biscuit-y strawberry shortcake, for example) feel free to add a couple tablespoons of granulated sugar at the start.

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