Meringues are really simple desserts, but they never really appealed to me because they are kind of plain. But I ran across these in flipping through my Martha Stewart Cookies cookbook, and they caught my attention as being perfect for the holidays. Plus, the peppermint adds a kick of flavor that makes them a little more interesting.
The only thing I changed was to add a pinch of salt to the egg whites, and also I didn't do the chocolate ganache that the recipe called for (they're supposed to be made into sandwich cookies).
I think the source of all difficulties with meringues are doing the egg whites correctly. One thing being out of whack -- the bowl being a little dirty, the egg whites being the wrong temperature, anything else -- and you'll keep whipping and whipping forever and nothing will happen. Meringues won't work at all unless the egg whites can hold their shape on their own enough to keep the cookie shape. Like so:
Set up a pastry bag with a star tip, and then paint stripes of red food coloring on the inside. I had red food coloring in gel form, which had solidified pretty... solidly... because my baking things had been in the garage for most of the fall and winter. Add a few drops of water to the gel to soften it up until it's kind of like the consistency of paint. Then, paint stripes. It doesn't have to be super precise.
If everything's going according to plan, the meringues will pipe out like little star cookies:
Also, I'm not usually a fan of parchment paper because it seems like a waste of paper, but they're pretty much required for this recipe -- meringues are sticky!
After a long, slow bake, the cookies will be dry and crunchy.
Happy holidays! I'm doing another cookie tomorrow, so we'll see if I can get that posted soon.
Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart
3 large egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
small pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
red gel paste food coloring
Preheat oven to 175 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Fit a pastry bag with a small open-star tip. Paint two or three stripes of food coloring inside the pastry bag.
Put egg whites and sugar and salt in a heatproof bowl, and set bowl over a pan of simmering water, and stir gently until sugar has dissolved and mixture is warm to the touch (2-3 minutes). Remove from heat and beat eggs with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Mix in peppermint extract.
Fill pastry bag with 1-2 cups of meringue. Pipe small (3/4 inch high) star sheets onto the parchment paper. Refill bag as necessary, and repaint stripes each time.
Bake cookies until crisp but not brown, about 1 hour and 40 minutes. Let cool completely.
Yield: 5 dozen cookies
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes