Meringue Madness

                                                                             

For me, December is cookie month! 

I recently made more batches of meringue cookies than I ever thought possible.  No, I am not a meringue fanatic, nor do I have an unhealthy obsession with egg whites.  I do, however, have a freelance job as a recipe developer, and my corporate client wanted meringues.  No problem, I thought.  Meringues are easy!  A few ingredients, a slow oven, and I could collect my paycheck.  Many, many batches of cookies later, I am now eating those words, and far too many meringues.

I quickly found that the egg whites are quicker to whip into voluminous, stiff peaks when they are at room temperature.  Straight-from-the-fridge egg whites just won’t whip.  I also found that regular, granulated sugar doesn’t incorporate easily into the meringue mixture, and the cookies will feel gritty.  Superfine or “castor” sugar is much better for creating  a smooth meringue.

Stiff peaks should stand tall!

Stiff peaks should stand tall!

The fun came when I had to figure out how to incorporate my client’s flavored, brewed tea into the cookies.  After a few batches that fell flat (literally), it became apparent that the tea was destabilizing the egg whites.   While they whipped up into perfect peaks, soon after coming out of the oven, they would collapse.  After trying varying amounts of tea, I finally was able to add just a teaspoon of super-concentrated brew to flavor the cookies without ruining them. 

It was a long road to achieve the final result, and my Pumpkin Spice Meringues with Pecans were a hit with my client.  The recipe below is a variation on my many meringue trials, and perfect for your holiday dessert table. 

Merry Mint Meringues

Makes 2 dozen cookies

2 oz egg whites (from  2 large eggs), at room temperature

½ cup superfine sugar

½ teaspoon Cream of Tartar

½ teaspoon mint extract

¼ cup crushed peppermint candies (or candy canes)

Parchment paper

 

Preheat oven to 275 degrees and place rack on middle setting.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Beat egg whites on medium-high speed with an electric mixer, until soft peaks form (about 2 minutes).  Add the cream of tartar, then the sugar, a little at a time, and raise the speed of the mixer to high. 

Add the mint extract and continue to beat on high until stiff peaks form (about 5 minutes).  To determine if you have achieved “stiff peaks”, dip a wire whisk into the mixture, pull it straight out and upward, and then turn the whisk right side up.  If the egg whites hold their peak (and they don’t bend over sideways), then you have stiff peaks.  The mixture should be very voluminous and look like fluffy whipped cream.  Don’t overbeat….the mixture should look glossy, not dry.

Using a 2 oz ice cream scoop (or 2 spoons), place rounded mounds of meringue (about 2 tablespoons per cookie) onto prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with crushed peppermint candies.  Bake for 45 minutes, until firm to the touch, turn oven off and allow the cookies to slowly cool as the oven cools (at least another hour).  They will be crisp on the outside, with a slightly soft center.  When they are finished, they will release from the parchment very easily.

Cool completely on a wire rack before storing in an airtight container on the countertop.

Note:  Superfine sugar is sometimes sold as “castor” or “caster” sugar and is available in the baking section of most supermarkets.  You can make your own superfine sugar by processing regular granulated sugar in a food processor for approximately 30 seconds.

Note:  High humidity can sometimes affect the results of this recipe.  Dry days are best to make meringues. 

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One Response to “Meringue Madness”

  1. paula Says:

    So very interesting! I am not a lover of
    meringue, but the tips you gave for the
    recipe method were very good. Things I did notknow and info we could use.

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