Friday, December 10, 2010

Peppermint Meringue Cookies with Chocolate Ganache

These little cookies are more like a little bite of confectionery. Very airy and sweet with just a hint of mint to carry over the candy-cane theme. Some bittersweet ganache to sandwich them together and you have an adorable, albeit slightly fragile, Christmas cookie!

Meringue is one of those things that is simple and yet complicated at the same time. You need to understand some baking science to be successful, but really it's nothing difficult. I found a great webpage that explained things really well. The only thing I altered was to whisk the first two stages by hand. My mixer wasn't really getting all the whites off the bottom of the bowl, so starting off with a hand whisk gave me the volume I needed to continue on with the remaining steps.

The ratio for meringue is:

2 lg egg whites ( be very sure that no yolk remaining in the whites, the fat will prevent the whites from peaking correctly)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar (egg whites benefit from a small bit of acid to help them whip right)

That's it. Pretty simple huh? How many cookies you produce will depend on the shape and size. This little kiss-size yielded about 2 dozen sandwiched cookies.

Step #1
Separate the whites from the yolks. Save the yolks in the fridge for another recipe. Let whites rest on counter until room temperature. Place in a very clean, dry bowl of a mixer. Beat at a low speed until whites look frothy & cloudy.

Step #2
Increase mixing speed to medium and add the cream of tartar.

Step #3
Mix until whites reach soft peak stage. The soft peak stage is reached when the peaks of the whites droop slightly, when the beater is turned off and lifted.

Step #4
Increase mixer speed to high. Add the sugar at this stage. I added it at a steady stream on the inside edge of the bowl. Beat until firm peaks form. The egg white foam will become smooth, moist and shiny. Stop the beaters and then lift them -- straight peaks should form.

Step #5
Now continue beating on high until stiff peaks are formed. Whites will be very stiff and glossy. Make sure they are complete to this stage if you want defined peaks at the top of your cookies.

Refer to the webpage mentioned above to see step by step photos.

For these cookies, add 1/4 tsp. peppermint extract now.

To continue you will need:

A piping bag
A piping/writing tip about 1/4 inch in diameter (I used a #10)
Red gel paste food coloring. I use AmeriColor Red Red (You can find this at the Bosch Kitchen Center in Orem)
A small food-safe paintbrush
Parchment paper
A quarter

With a pencil, use the quarter to trace several (4-5 dozen) circles on the parchment paper. Turn this paper upside down onto your baking sheet. ( I used two baking sheets) You should be able to see the circles through the parchment. Preheat your oven to 225 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fit the piping tip into the piping bag. With the paintbrush dipped in food coloring, paint three stripes down the inside of the bag. A medium amount, not too heavy, not too light.

Scoop the meringue into the piping bag. Close and pipe circles onto the parchment, filling to fit the circles. Pull up at the end to make the peak. They should look like chocolate kisses. Just practice to get this shape. The not-perfect ones still taste delicious!

When all meringue is used or pans are filled, place into the oven for 1 hour and 30 minutes. Don't peek! Let set on pans for a few hours after done baking before filling. They are a little fragile, especially at the tip, but so yummy!

Ganache filling:

1 cup heavy cream
6 oz. semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate

Heat cream to almost boiling and pour over chocolate in a bowl. Let cream melt chocolate and then stir well. Place in fridge for about 1 1/2 hours. Stir again and use same piping bag and tip to fill cookies.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

I Loved Her First

She's 18 today.

I think she's amazing.
And fun.
And smart.
And beautiful.
And kind.
And hilarious.
And amazing...

And I'm 94% ok that she's 18.
'Cause watching her grow up has been so fulfilling.

I'm 3% okay that she's on the verge of leaving and being on her own.
'Cause it's the next step in her Great Adventure.

I'm 0% ok that last night I dreamed that she got engaged on her 18th birthday.
'Cause........ well, just 'cause!

I'm 2% ok that she's such an independent girl.
It's a love-hate thing for me.....(mostly love it though!)

I'm 1% ok with all the best songs about little girls are from a daddy's point of view, but just pretend that this one is being sung by mama.

100% of me would go back to the very first second and do it all over again!

Happy birthday Sid. I love you.

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