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Every day till Christmas, we're bringing you 12 Days of Baking: 12 all-new baking recipes to lift holiday spirits -- from breakfast pastries to dinner rolls, and all the desserts you can handle.
Today: Merrill takes on meringue mushrooms, Buche de Noël style.
My mother made lots of different Christmas cookies while we were growing up, and one of our favorites were her meringue mushrooms. Maybe it was because they looked like one thing but tasted like another, or because making them with her was such fun. Sometimes we made a Buche de Noël to go with them, but often we skipped that and just made the mushrooms.
They're a lot easier to make than you might think, and a great project for restless kids. Here's how you do it:
First, whip up a stiff meringue -- it should hold its peaks proudly.
Carefully load the meringue into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch round tip.
Pipe even 1 1/2-inch rounds of meringue onto a parchment or silicone-lined baking sheet, leaving a little space in between.
Then pipe the mushroom stems, starting a little thicker at the base and then thinning out as you work upwards, creating a cone shape.
Dip your finger in a little water and gently smooth the tops of the little rounds. No need to worry about the stems, as you'll be trimming them after they're baked.
Bake the meringues in a slow oven until they're crisp throughout, but still pale.
Trim the points off the tops of the stems using a serrated knife, creating a flat plane.
Dip the bottoms of the round in melted chocolate (I add a little spice to mine).
Attach one of the stems to each of the chocolate-dipped mushroom caps, stand the mushrooms upright and chill them to set the chocolate.
Dust the tops of the mushrooms with cocoa powder to finish them off.
Makes about 20 mushrooms
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup superfine sugar
3 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate
Large pinch cinnamon (optional)
Large pinch cayenne (optional)
Photos by James Ransom