Meringues! Does anyone ever eat these? I had never tried them until Christmas, but I'd been seriously missing out.
I wanted to make something different and special for my family's Christmas Eve dinner, so I turned to Pinterest (as one does). I found the cutest Christmas tree meringue recipe from www.smartschoolhouse.com, and I had to try it. I had to make a few adjustments to the recipe, but they turned out wonderfully. My family even raved at how perfectly they turned out, because it's apparently super difficult?? I had no idea, but I guess I'm glad I was clueless, because there was no pressure. Let me tell you, I've done them twice now and I think they couldn't be easier to make. I don't know what they were talking about.
The second batch I made was for Valentine's Day, so I made them all pink and cute. I'm also going to make them next month for my daughter's purple/rainbow party and call them unicorn horns. I think this will be the year of shoehorning meringues into every occasion.
Here's the recipe:
4 egg whites
1 cup white granulated sugar
1/2 t. cream of tartar
1 T. vanilla extract
Optional additional flavoring and food colors
You will need a good mixer to make these. Preferably a stand mixer to save your arms, but a hand mixer will do. Make sure your bowl and beaters are completely clean and dry with no grease of any sort on them. The egg whites won't fluff if there's any grease. Preheat your oven to 225, though you may need to bump up the heat depending on the humidity and the phase of the moon, haha. On Christmas Eve, I had to bump it up to 300 to get them to finally dry out and set, after being in the oven for nearly four hours. I didn't have that problem this time, but they did have to stay in for about two hours.
Start by separating your egg whites from the yolks. There are different techniques for this, but I like to gently split the egg in half, then slide the yolk from shell half to shell half, back and forth between my hands. The white drips and drops away from the yolk with every pass. Be very careful not to break the yolk, because even one drop of yolk will ruin the mixture. Do this into a separate bowl from your mixer just for this reason. (photo of eggs)
Pour the whites into your mixing bowl and start whipping them on high until they are nice and frothy, or about three minutes. Slowly add the sugar to the eggs as it whips, then continue to whip the mixture for another minute on high. Add the cream of tartar, vanilla, and optional flavoring and color. Continue whipping the meringue on high for 5-7 minutes, or until the meringue is thick and stiff peaks form. "Stiff peaks" means that you can pull the beaters out and the meringue stays in stiff points that don't simply collapse back into the bowl. You can also hold the beater up in the air and the meringue will stay pointed on the tip (photos of whipping meringue and the beater held up).
Now it's time to pipe them onto your trays! Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper. Scoop the meringue into a piping bag or a gallon size ziplock bag. If you use a ziplock, just shove it into one corner, twist the open end tightly, then snip the very tip of your bag with scissors to create your piping hole.
You can pipe in many different ways, using a round tip or a star tip, or just the hole itself. You can do one smooth squeeze, swirl it like soft serve, pipe it into wreaths or hearts, etc. Play with it and try what works for you! These cookies will not expand or spread at all, so you can do them very close together to fill your trays. If you're using them, sprinkle on the sprinkles now.
Place your trays in the oven and then start your kitchen cleanup. Check them after about an hour. If they are glossy at all, they are not ready. Give them another half hour-hour. If they look dry, give one a small tap. If it squishes in, it isn't ready. If it sticks to the paper, it isn't ready. If you can lightly push one and it lifts cleanly off the paper, they are ready! The whole drying/baking period can take anywhere from about an hour and a half to four hours (like it did for me on Christmas). They are basically just dehydrating, so give them time and don't freak out! Just relax and enjoy the creamy smell filling your home.
Once they are out of the oven, let them cool completely (which only takes a few minutes). Store them in a tightly sealed container in a dry, cool place. If too much warmth or moisture gets to them, they will start to get sticky and deflate a bit. Sort of like cotton candy, actually. They can keep for at least a week in dry conditions, but you won't be able to resist them for that long. The texture is honestly a bit odd at first, but they quickly become very addicting. They melt away as soon as they touch your tongue and coat your mouth with a dreamy creaminess. Fair warning, though: meringues and carbonated drinks do NOT mix. Trust me.