Like miniature Pavlovas, these crisp-yet-chewy meringue nests from The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook are an elegant dessert that’s actually easy to make. Both the meringues and the tart raspberry fool that fills them can be made ahead of time too, perfect for a country house, or your own kitchen. Just be sure not to repeat Mrs. Patmore’s mistake—use sugar, not salt!
Special Equipment: A piping bag with a star tip makes it easy to form the meringue nests (and the little meringue stars that go on top).
Variations: If the meringue nests crack or don’t get quite crisp enough, just roughly break them into pieces and fold them with the whipped cream, raspberry puree, and a few whole berries for a fine Downton mess (like an Eton mess, which is made with strawberries). You can also replace the raspberries in this recipe with strawberries, blackberries, blueberries gooseberries, or plums (but the latter two will need to be simmered with a little water to soften them a bit before pureeing). Whatever fruit you go with, the fool is also good on its own in a glass for an easy summer sweet.
- 2 egg whites
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon superfine sugar
- 1/2 pound fresh raspberries, plus more for decorating
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1/4 cup superfine sugar
- confectioners’ sugar, if needed
- To make the meringue, preheat the oven to 200°F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
- Using a whisk or handheld mixer on medium speed, beat together the egg whites and lemon juice in a bowl until soft peaks form, increasing the mixer speed to medium-high once the whites are foamy and begin to thicken. Beating constantly, add the superfine sugar, a little at a time, and beat until stiff peaks form. Transfer the mixture to a piping bag fitted with a large star tip. Pipe 6 meringue nests each 2-3 inches in diameter—first outlining them, then filling in the centers, and finally building up the sides—and some small stars for garnish on the prepared pan.
- Bake the meringues for 2-2 1/2 hours. They should be crisp to the touch and lift off the parchment easily. Let cool completely.
- To make the fool, puree the raspberries in a food processor or blender, then pass the puree through a fine-mesh sieve to remove the seeds, or use a food mill, which will extract the seeds as it purees. (Removing the seeds is optional but would have been done in houses like Downton.) Combine the cream and superfine sugar in a bowl, and using a whisk or a handheld mixer on medium speed, whip together until soft peaks form. Gently fold in the raspberry puree just until no white streaks remain. Taste and adjust with confectioners’ sugar if you prefer it sweeter. The fool should be fairly tart, however, to contrast with the meringue.
- Both the meringues and the fool can be made a day in advance. Store the meringues in an airtight container at room temperature and the fool tightly covered in the fridge. When you are ready to serve, fill the meringue nests with the fool and top with the small meringue stars. Serve with raspberries alongside.