Day 11 - Christmas Tree Meringues

5:00 AM

I love meringues.  They are so versatile, and honestly, I'm fascinated by them!  My first experience with meringues was a flop.  Literally.  I had picked a rather complicated recipe that required me to fold other ingredients into the meringue and I ended up stirring out all the air.  It was tasty, but absolutely ugly!

Since then, I've learned more about meringues and discovered a few tricks that practically guarantee a perfect meringue every time!  I wrote a post about it a few years ago here.  This recipe is for a Swiss Meringue - which basically means that the whipped egg whites are cooked before you bake them (i.e. you can taste as you go without worrying about eating raw egg!), and while the meringue is on the softer side, it is very stable.  

If you're like me and want to read more about the history and science of meringues, check out this post.  These cookies spend a long time in the oven, so while there's not much hands-on time, don't plan on whipping them up at the last minute or you'll be sorely disappointed.  

A few tips for getting started with your meringues:

  1. Make sure your bowl is clean and free from any water or oils.  I prefer to use metal or glass, since plastic bowls tend to hold onto the oils.  
  2. Eggs separate best when cold, but egg whites whip to perfection at room temperature.  Separate your eggs and then set aside the whites for about 30 minutes to allow them to come to room temperature.
  3. Be careful when separating the eggs.  Little pieces of shell or yolk will keep the whites from whipping to their full potential.  If some ends up in the bowl, don't worry - just set it aside for another project and start with some new eggs.  
  4. A general rule with meringues is 1/4 cup of sugar for each egg white.  That right there will make a beautiful meringue.  Adding a little Cream of Tartar helps to stabilize the eggs, making the meringue a little easier to work with.

Christmas Tree Meringues

  • 4 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/4 tsp extract of your choosing (almond, vanilla, or peppermint are all very nice)
  • green gel food coloring
  • sprinkles - I used rainbow nonpareils and tiny star shaped candies

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.  Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat and set aside.

In a large metal or glass bowl (or the bowl of your stand mixer), combine egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar.  Place over a small pot of gently simmering water on the stove.  Use an electric hand mixer, or whisk [very] vigorously until sugar is dissolved.  (You can test this by rubbing a small amount of the egg mixture between your fingers - if it's smooth, you're done.  If it feels grainy, keep going!)

Remove from heat and continue to mix with the hand mixer or place on stand mixer and whisk on medium high until egg whites become stiff and glossy.  When you have stiff peaks, add in extract and food coloring (enough to get the color desired).

Very gently place mixture into a piping bag fitted with a large star tip.  Pipe cookies onto prepared  baking sheet.  They should be about 1 inch wide by 2 inches high.  Sprinkle with rainbow nonpareils.  *Note: save the little bit of meringue left in the bowl to stick the stars onto the trees*

Cook for 2 hours (yes, you read that right.)  After 2 hours, turn oven off, open door slightly, and allow to cool slowly in oven for an additional 2 hours (or overnight).

Use a tiny dot of leftover meringue to stick the stars onto the cookies.

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