With an origin story involving a big strawberry pavlova and a lolloping Labrador (sadly debunked), it’s hard to resist the charms of an Eton mess on that basis alone. What’s not to love about the classic English dessert? Lush cloud of cream; sweet, juicy fruit; crisp-crunchy meringue; and no pressure whatsoever to make it look pretty. (When was the last time a recipe actually asked you to make a mess? When?)
Think of the meringue as the backbone of this dish (read all about egg whites and what makes them work here). With the meringue as a constant, all of the other players can rotate: Use berries as called for in the original, drippy peaches or nectarines in the summer, and fat fresh figs or plums in the fall. Baking the meringue as a thin sheet instead of swirled dollops ensures that it’s as crisp as a potato chip all the way through. Tangy sour cream in the whipped cream pings off of the taste buds, making you salivate while taming the sweet bite of the meringue. Make each component ahead of time for extra easy assembly at the time of serving.