Author Notes: These funny little confections are a traditional garnish for Buche de Noël. My mother used to make them with us when we were growing up -- they're a great project to make with young kids. They also make for a fun edible present. —Merrill Stubbs
Makes: about 20 mushrooms
large egg whites
teaspoon cream of tartar
cup superfine sugar
ounces semisweet chocolate
pinch ground cinnamon (optional)
pinch cayenne (optional)
Cocoa powder for dusting
- To make the meringues, first heat the oven to 225 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment or silicone.
- In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the egg whites on low speed until foamy, about a minute. Add the cream of tartar and beat on medium speed until the whites form soft peaks, another minute or two.
- Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and add the sugar gradually until you have glossy, stiff peaks. This should take about 5 minutes.
- Fit a pastry bag with a 1 1/2-inch round tip and spoon about half the meringue into the bag. Twist the top and pipe 1 1/2-inch rounds onto one of the lined baking sheets, leaving an inch or so between the rounds.
- Add the rest of the meringue to the bag and using the second baking sheet, Then pipe the mushroom stems, starting a little thicker at the base and then thinning out as you work up, creating a cone shape. (Count as you get towards the end of the meringue and make sure you have an even number of caps and stems -- if not, pipe more of whatever you need.)
- 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 for 1 1/2-2 hours, until crisp and dry -- do not let them brown. Let them cool on the baking sheets.
- In the meantime, melt the chocolate in the microwave or a double boiler and whisk in the spices if using. Let the chocolate cool a little so that it thickens up a little and isn't so runny.
- While the chocolate is cooling, use a serrated knife to carefully trim about 1/4 of an inch off the the pointed tips of the mushroom stems, creating a flat plane.
- Dip the bottom of each meringue mushroom cap into the chocolate, creating a thin layer, and then attach the the narrow end of the stem, using the chocolate as glue. Arrange the mushrooms right-side-up on a baking sheet and refrigerate until the chocolate sets. Dust the tops of the mushrooms with cocoa powder to finish.
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